That means James McArthur will draw his third consecutive series-opening start with David Parkinson going on Saturday, and freshman lefty Ryan Rolison making his second career SEC start in the series finale on Sunday. Bianco has adjusted the back end of his rotation in recent weeks, resulting in Brady Feigl returning to the bullpen and reassuming a middle relief role that he was effective in last season.
The only major change at the top was prompted by an injury when McArthur began to feel a sharp pain in his forearm when he threw his breaking ball in early March in his start against Texas Tech. After a brief two-week stint on the shelf, McArthur returned in the first game of a Thursday-Friday-Saturday series against Kentucky - one in which he yielded a run while scattering five hits in a win - and has remained in the number one slot since.
"I feel good. My arm feels really healthy and I feel like I have been able to go out there and attack and give my team a chance to win," McArthur said. "Just to eat up outs. That's what me and Coach Bianco have talked about. There is really no expectations on your innings in that first weekend. Just go out there and eat up outs. That has pretty much been my mindset the last two weeks."
Bianco was pleased with his sophomore right-hander's two starts since his return. He thought that McArthur lost a little bit of velocity in the later innings of his start against Kentucky as his pitch count spiked, but did not see much of that in his second outing last Thursday night against Mississippi State. McArthur's results were even better in that one. He tossed 6.2 innings and surrendered two runs on four hits. He left with Ole Miss in control, and likely would have earned his second consecutive win if not for an implosion by the Rebel bullpen and a couple of blunders in the field.
"Terrific. He's been really good in both starts," Bianco said. "Against Kentucky, you could tell that the stamina wasn't there. To miss one weekend is sometimes a plus. It can rejuvenate you, but if you miss two weekends then it is basically three weeks. He was good early but he lost a little velocity once he got past 50 pitches or so. Didn't see that as much last start. He looked strong. I thought he pitched well."
McArthur is a guy that relies heavily on his fastball to complement a hard slider and a change up, and has done well to locate it since he's returned. He's walked just three hitters in 13.1 innings. He says filling the role of the Friday night guy is a little different from a preparation standpoint, but is really does not chance much once he gets into the flow of the game.
"Once you're out there it is pretty much the same, just going at them," he said.
McArthur will get a chance to get Ole Miss off to a good start in a series that it desperately needs to get two wins from. He's aware of the offensive struggles, but remains confident in the lineup behind him.
"We have a lot of confidence in our hitters, and hitting is so tough. We know that we need to go out there and make pitches and try to eat up outs. Our guys are going to score," McArthur said. "It's baseball. That is how it is. The runs are going to come eventually and they have been doing a really good job lately. We are really just doing the same thing every week, just eating up outs and making pitches."
The pitching staff has largely carried this team through its struggles at the plate. Ole Miss sits at 3-6 in SEC play, and can't afford to slip much more with the schedule getting more daunting towards the end of the season.
"All these SEC games are super important," McArthur said. "They mean so much to your resumé for postseason and it is a big weekend for us. We just need to go out there and try to get game one."