Funny thing happened to Scott Bittle Sunday. The All-SEC closer was a little nervous.
Bittle pitched in big games and thrived in nearly every conceivable situation during 2008, but during his first action back for fall camp, there was some nervousness involved after not seeing competition for the summer. Sunday was the first game-type situation for Bittle since his mastery of Missouri in the Coral Gables Regional this past June.
"It was just the first time back and the first time to really compete in four months," Bittle said. "I was definitely a little nervous, but it went well."
The right-hander tossed two innings at Oxford High School and allowed two runs thanks to a Cullan Kight long ball. However, the home run wasn't the important thing, as the fact that Bittle threw with expected velocity and was pain-free was by far the bigger aspect of his outing.
Bittle pitched in the 86-88 MPH range and struckout multiple hitters. The velocity was good considering it was the first outing in some time. The mistake to Kight was the dreaded cutter that Bittle hung.
"He almost hit it over the light pole, but I knew it when I let it go," Bittle said. "I left it up, and he took care of it. But otherwise, I was very pleased and am just really excited to get back out here."
The senior returns as the premier bullpen arm nationally, but that role could change depending on how the rest of the Ole Miss pitching staff plays out. With his ability to work long outings, Bittle may be shifted into a weekend starting role.
"Coach (Bianco) and I have had a few conversations about it, but we don't know yet," Bittle said. "I was a starter when I got here, and I am obviously very comfortable closing now. We'll see what happens, but it doesn't matter. I want to do whatever to help the team."
Bianco loves Bittle's versatility and isn't ready to commit to a niche just yet either.
"You always find the starters and then work from there, but of course, we both want him to come out of the bullpen because of his success there," Bianco said. "It is quite a luxury, but you have to have those great weekend guys as well. It all depends on what role helps the team the most."
Bittle returns for his third season in red and blue after failing to reach an agreement with the New York Yankees this past summer. The Yankees drafted Bittle in the second round of the First Year Player Draft, but shoulder concerns collapsed the negotiations.
Bittle sought independent opinions, and those doctors declared him healthy.
"The shoulder feels great and has no problems," Bittle said. "I was shutdown all summer and was just anxious to throw again. Yesterday (Monday) was good, and other than being a little sore due to being inactive, all is well.
"It should be a good season, and I'm excited to be back."
Bittle 'feels good' after first fall work
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