Button returns to practice

Evan Button was ready to play at Alabama in late March. But his back said no. A stress fracture was found, and Button has been sidelined ever since. Until yesterday.

He did some light work on Tuesday, basically playing catch. Today he was out at shortstop with Tim Ferguson and Sean Stuyverson, taking grounders, working on defensive plays, trying to get a feel for things again.

Although Mike Bianco says Button likely won't dress this weekend as he continues to heal, it is good to have him back. Now the hope is for him to be ready to help the team the last weekend of the regular season at Kentucky and on into postseason.

"We're going to get him a little active to see what he can do," Bianco said. "We'll see how that goes, and he's a possibility for next weekend (at UK) and in the postseason."

Button, who played in 13 games and was set to start at Alabama before the injury became too much to bear, says it's been difficult watching and waiting and not playing.

"It's pretty depressing sitting there and trying to be positive. It's hard to come up with stuff to be positive about," said the team's co-captain, along with Fuller Smith. "I'm finally back out here and dressed out. I feel like a part of the team again."

His back had already been bothering him before the Alabama series, as early as the Mississippi State series. But it was during Thursday night's practice in Tuscaloosa when it reached its unfortunate peak.

"Taking ground balls and in BP, I just couldn't do it," Button said. "Then I was in the starting lineup Friday night, and I just couldn't go."

He is back now and hopes his injury is behind him. But he isn't completely sure. There is some doubt.

"We'll see what happens," said Button, who has been taking daily treatment to get over the injury as soon as possible. "You think it could happen again, like it did at Alabama. I'm glad to be back and bringing whatever I can to the team."

Michael Guerrero hit today, and there was to be a further evaluation on how that went as the week progresses. Bianco said it's probably 50-50 whether the junior centerfielder can go this weekend. Catcher Kyle Henson worked with the team today and his arm feels better. But the status for the junior catcher in still uncertain as far as playing soon.

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Junior right-hander Scott Bittle and junior catcher Brett Basham recently saw their names added to the mid-season watch lists for end of the year awards in recognition of their performances in the 2008 baseball season.

Bittle was recently added to the 2008 Clemens Award Watch List and ballot for the first round of voting which is currently underway for the nation's top pitcher, while Basham was announced recently as a candidate for the Johnny Bench Award which honors the nation's top catcher.

Bittle leads the Southeastern Conference in strikeouts with 92 in only 50.2 innings pitched as a closer and also finds himself among the tops in the nation. Bittle leads the nation in strikeouts per 9.0 innings (16.33) and fewest hits allowed per 9.0 innings (3.37) while he is fifth nationally in ERA (1.60) and is seventh in total number of strikeouts (92). For the season, Bittle has posted seven saves and a 4-1 record. The seven saves moved him to 14 saves for his career, third on the career list at Ole Miss.

Basham has been stellar behind the plate this season, leading the Southeastern Conference in runners caught stealing as he has thrown out 21 base runners this season, to go along with two runners picked off. He is hitting .321 in Southeastern Conference play and has been one of the top run producers for the Rebels as he has tallied 28 RBI on the season.

Bittle joins junior right-hander Lance Lynn on the mid-season watch list for the Clemens Award. Lynn was named to the Clemens Award Watch List after the opening week of play when he was named National Pitcher of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association.

The 10 semi-finalists for the Bench Award will be announced on Wednesday, May 14, while the 10 semi-finalists for the Clemens Award will be announced on Thursday, May 15.

(The second part of this story on Basham and Bittle was from Bill Bunting of UM athletics media relations.)

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