FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Jalen Beeks will not be available for this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament because of elbow soreness.
But the Razorbacks are optimistic the left-hander, who has missed two straight starts because of the injury, will get back on the mound this season.
“We feel like if we’re fortunate enough to get in a regional next weekend he will pitch. He’ll be ready to go by then,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Van Horn updated Beeks’ status during a Southeastern Conference Tournament teleconference on Monday morning. The Razorbacks (35-21, 16-14 in SEC), who are the No. 7 seed in the SEC Tournament, will play No. 10 seed Texas A&M (33-23, 14-16) in a single-elimination game Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the double-elimination round and face No. 2 Ole Miss (40-16, 19-11) on Wednesday.
Arkansas will start Trey Killian (3-8, 2.34 ERA) on short rest against the Aggies this afternoon, while Chris Oliver (7-4, 2.63 ERA) is scheduled to pitch Wednesday if the Razorbacks advance. Van Horn said Arkansas would evaluate pitching options from there without Beeks, who has not thrown since his last start at Ole Miss on May 3.
Right-hander Dominic Taccolini (2-0, 4.12 ERA) remains the likely candidate to get the ball for a third game. He has started in Beeks’ place the past two weeks, throwing 3 2/3 and 3 innings against Texas A&M and Missouri, respectively.
But Van Horn said Colin Poche (3-0, 2.55 ERA) and Alex Phillips (3-0, 2.33 ERA) are options for starting roles. Both worked as Arkansas’ midweek starters this season.
“We have some guys who have started,” Van Horn said. “Poche has started some games, and Alex Phillips has started some games, although he didn’t pitch very well down the stretch. We got some contributions from some guys the other day, like Landon Simpson. I thought he did a great job getting that win against Missouri. So we’ll just kind of figure that out if we’re fortunate enough to get that far.”
Senior Jake Wise has started 49 of Arkansas’ 56 games behind the plate. But Van Horn indicated freshman Alex Gosser may be in the starting lineup against the Aggies for the SEC Tournament opener today.
“I think Gosser has done a tremendous job for a young man we didn’t play until a couple weeks ago,” Van Horn said. “With the way Wise has been catching, it’s hard to pull him out of there. He’s struggling offensively.
“As of right now, I might go with Gosser (against Texas A&M).”
Gosser started the first game of the Texas A&M series in Baum Stadium two weeks ago, filling in for Wise (concussion) and Blake Baxendale (hamstring). The Razorbacks were trying to redshirt Gosser before he was pressed into duty.
He replaced Wise after a few innings in Saturday’s season finale at Missouri. Gosser went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk, collecting his first hits with the Razorbacks.
“He did a good job of coming in the other day, middle of that game we’re down 4-0 and he got a couple of base hits, drew a walk,” said Van Horn, who planned to make a decision Monday. “That’s the way it looks like I’m going to go as of right now.”
Blake Baxendale isn’t expected to play in the SEC Tournament because of the hamstring injury he suffered at Ole Miss on May 4. But even if he was fully recovered, Van Horn said it could be difficult finding a spot in the lineup because of Clark Eagan’s success.
Baxendale played a key role in Arkansas’ offensive surge last month and is hitting .290 with a home run and 21 RBIs this season. But Eagan has thrived as Arkansas’ designated hitter since Baxendale suffered his injury against the Rebels, going 9-for-20 with two home runs, 6 RBIs and 5 runs scored in the leadoff role.
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot,” Van Horn said. “I don’t think he’ll be ready for this tournament. If we were fortunate to win (today) and stick around for a few days or to the weekend he might be ready. I think my dilemma will be, and it will be a good thing, if we’re fortunate enough to get into a regional I think we would have him back and would give us some options.”