Bukvich back for more

Brett Bukvich has been around Ole Miss baseball for a long time. So have some of his teammates.

The Brandon native is in his fifth season with the Rebels, which means he was on the team as far back as the Super Regional season when Ole Miss hosted Texas. That was in 2005.

But the left-handed pitcher from Northwest Rankin High points out he's not the only five-year guy around.

"Me and Logan Power," he said of his fellow Jackson-area teammate.

Both are indeed back for year five. They are a part of what Mike Bianco has called likely his oldest team in nine years with the Rebels.

Bukvich is part of a pitching staff that is currently a bit unclear as to their roles for the upcoming season. Sure, it appears the best guess on Scott Bittle is that he's again going to be in that closer role, where he had so much success last year.

After that? Sophomore LHP Drew Pomeranz is a likely weekend starter. Junior LHP Nathan Baker returns with a lot of experience. Junior RHP Phillip Irwin had a terrific fall. Then there are veterans like sophomore RHP Jake Morgan and junior RHP Rory McKean.

Could the weekend rotation include one of the newcomers, like freshman LHP Kyle Barbeck or junior college transfer right-handers Chris Corrigan or Aaron Barrett.

But back to Buk. He's going to be a part of the plan. It should be an interesting preseason to see where any and all of the above might fit in. The Rebels continue that search Sunday with their first intrasquad of the spring.

"It's the best health I've ever been in," Bukvich said. "I feel great. I worked on some things over the (holiday) break. I feel as good as I have in a while."

He had surgery in the summer of 2007 on his elbow "to clean it out. I had a couple of bone spurs," he said.

Then he tore a ligament in his finger at TCU last season and missed several games.

He made 14 appearances last season with six starts, including the elimination game against Missouri in the NCAA Regional at Miami, a game the Rebels won to advance to face the Hurricanes.

Against the Tigers he worked four and 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking only one. Bukvich, at 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, believes he's right where he needs to be headed into the season.

"I feel I'm in a lot better shape and condition," he said. "Over the break I worked out real hard. I worked out with my brother a lot."

His brother, Ryan, who pitched first at Delta State and then at Ole Miss, is trying to catch back on with a major league club currently.

"He's a free agent right now, and he told me the Brewers and Dodgers and Indians are looking at him. He's working out and hoping to get on with one of them."

Brett said as for himself, he's tried to improve everything he does as far as pitching.

"I've watched a lot of film on myself, which I'd never really done. Looking at the film and working on my mechanics have made my fastball and even my offspeed stuff sharper. I've worked on lowering my hand a little bit to get some sink on the fastball. I've got my changeup, my slider, and I developed a curve ball over last summer that's coming around."

And before long he hopes to find his role, where he fits in on this staff, and where he can most help the team. He knows it's going to be a battle to win a starting spot, but he welcomes it.

"There are six or seven pitchers who could start on opening weekend," he said. "That's a good thing because everybody's battling and pushing each other more than ever. In the past you kind of had an idea who would be in what role. This year, everybody's getting better because we're working even harder to get ahead."

Bukvich said his goal for the season is a daily one. And it's something he's learned.

"Don't look at the big picture. Get better every day. Don't look at the prize; look at the process," he said.

"Everyday work to get better, and then on Feb. 20, we'll see where I'm at. I just want to be as effective as I can be to help this team reach all its goals. I want to give our team a legitimate chance to win, and I want to do that every game I pitch in."

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