Sunday Night Notes

Ole Miss concluded its final weekend of intrasquads before Opening Day arrives. Go inside for updates and opinion about the Diamond Rebels.

Media day for the Ole Miss baseball team is Monday afternoon, so Jeff and I will have coverage of the event for you as soon as possible. With the annual gathering a day away, Mike Bianco wanted to hold off on any announcements until then, but I am expecting Coach to name a third starter and to shed some light on the catching situation Monday.

Injury Front

Evan Button returned to practice during the week and seemed to be basically full strength during Sunday's intrasquad after scarily rolling his ankle more than a week ago. Button didn't run after reaching base, but Bianco wasn't concerned and said it was mainly a precautionary measure. He has played since Friday in the field. Expect him to start this Friday against Minnesota.

The best news of the weekend was on the pitching front with Brett Bukvich finally seeing live action after rehabbing from August shoulder surgery. The left-hander was scheduled to throw 60 pitches off the mound, so after some bullpen work, Bianco let Bukvich have an inning against live hitting. The junior responded with two strikeouts and just a hit by pitch surrendered. Bukvich will throw Thursday and again the next Monday. It appears he is unavailable for at least the opening series, however, his strength is good, and he has made a great deal of progress over the past couple weeks.

Kyle Henson didn't start the intrasquad Sunday due to a heavily taped left knee, but he entered in the late innings and finished 1-3 offensively. The catcher position may be tightening due to Basham having a really rough go of it at the plate.

Those in attendance Sunday held their breath for a few moments as Jordan Henry dove for a fly ball and didn't get up for several seconds. Henry laid on the field clutching his arm or wrist, but soon popped up and went back to his position fully healthy.

Wade Broyles was hit with a line drive while umpiring from behind the mound Saturday. He left the field and returned with tape around his leg, but the sophomore pitched effectively Sunday, so he is obviously fine.

Random Notes and Thoughts

Cody Overbeck got some work in at first base during the weekend, but it doesn't appear to be a sign of him changing positions right now. Bianco said Overbeck was the best defensive option at first and was tinkering with lineups to try to get other people on the field. Defense is a question mark there because of the inexperience with Cullan Kight and Matt Smith, thus a late-game substitution where Overbeck moves across the infield is possible. A lot of this will depend on other infielders showing they can handle the hot corner, mainly Logan Williams, and I would also guess maybe Sean Stuyverson. Williams is a freshman with serious potential offensively, but his defense has been suspect since the fall. I do think Williams will have a travel spot and could be a valuable bat off the bench this season.

Overbeck remains the most potent offensive weapon thus far. Whether he is just dialed in or the extra weight is helping, Overbeck has crushed the ball since early in the fall and is making my expectations for him elevate daily.

Nathan Baker and Cody Satterwhite both struggled this weekend with their control after being impressive in previous outings. Satterwhite seemed to be throwing across his body Saturday and missing the zone, while Baker was getting too much of the plate. The Rebel offense keyed in on Baker and pounded out five runs and nine hits in less than five innings. This being said, I still look for both to have starting roles next weekend.

Drew Pomeranz did an excellent job of shaking off a tough inning Sunday. Bianco called his first inning because of pitch count after Pomeranz only recorded one out in the frame. But the freshman settled down and located well during his final four innings of work. The Southpaw is still raw and inexperienced, but his potential is undeniable. Once he learns to work the game as in holding runners and pitching with a plan, he could challenge for a major role on the staff. His offspeed pitches are improving each time out.

Speaking of holding runners, the pitchers as a whole are finding difficulty with this feat. Some of it may have to do with the scrimmage situation and runners taking chances, but most of the time, the catchers are behind the eight ball before even receiving the pitch.

Garrett Duff is quickly working his way up the pitching depth chart after another productive weekend. The freshman with a fastball over 90 allowed one run in four innings. Duff does an excellent job of hiding the ball during his delivery. His front side shoulder blocks the hitter's path and doesn't allow the batter to get a clean window to pick up the pitch.

Projected closer Justin Cryer needed a better outing than Sunday to finish off his intrasquad season. Cryer entered to work the final portion of the day and found trouble quickly. After striking out Michael Hubbard, the sophomore allowed a double to Overbeck and back-to-back home runs to Michael Guerrero and Matt Smith. Ninth-innings meltdowns plagued the team in 2007. A repeat would be detrimental to the team's lofty goals.

Former pitcher Craig Rodriguez is a week away from reporting to spring training, so Bianco allowed the 2007 senior to pitch two innings of the intrasquads this week, one Thursday and one Sunday. Justin Henry and Matt Tolbert have also been hanging around practice lately. The Rebel program is extremely accommodating to the past players.

Guerrero had been relatively struggling lately, but he busted out over the weekend and is still on pace to start in right field against Minnesota. Henry has been practicing almost entirely in centerfield, and Logan Power is leading in left.

Seniors Kyle Mills and Fuller Smith are making individual runs at the designated hitter position. Smith has hit the ball well for a while now, and Mills has heated up in the past couple weeks. Mills is a former JUCO National Player of the Year and has ample power when he is seeing the ball. Those two along with Hubbard are the favorites at DH. Mills is right-handed, and the other two hit from the left side.

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