Minor ailments slow baseball regulars as season nears

Holbrook expects everybody to be ready

nwhite@thestate.comFebruary 2, 2014 

There wasn’t a Red Cross tent set up next to the dugout for the South Carolina baseball team’s three weekend scrimmages, but the Gamecocks could have used one.

USC coach Chad Holbrook didn’t have key regulars available for a variety of reasons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Center fielder Tanner English, who has tendinitis in a knee, missed all three scrimmages. Catcher Grayson Greiner came down with the flu and was able to serve only as a designated hitter Sunday. Second baseman Max Schrock strained a back muscle in Friday’s scrimmage and did not return until Sunday, when he played only defense. Shortstop DC Arendas played all weekend, but tendinitis in his elbow kept him from throwing across the diamond. And pitcher Evan Beal missed his second consecutive weekend with lower back issues.

Holbrook doesn’t see any of the problems lingering into the regular season, which starts in less than two weeks.

“It’s better to have it now than in the middle of the year,” he said. “I think we’ll be full bore, about ready to go, 100 percent … hopefully, in the middle of this week.”

An MRI of English’s knee showed no structural damage, and he received an injection for the pain. He’s expected to be back practicing this week. Schrock’s injury isn’t related to the stress fracture he suffered last summer, and the back felt better as the weekend progressed. He should be swinging the bat again in practice this week. Holbrook also expects Arendas to be able to throw this week. And Beal should be medically cleared to throw in scrimmages next weekend.

With Greiner weakened from the flu, Holbrook liked that he was able to get longer looks at his backup catchers, freshman Logan Koch and junior Patrick Harrington, who showed more energy as the weekend went on.

“It was good to see some of those younger guys actually catch today and move the scrimmage along pretty good,” Holbrook said. “Logan and Patrick did very well. That was encouraging to see, because we can’t catch Grayson Greiner every single game.”

Holbrook also was encouraged by his young pitchers again, including freshman right-hander Wil Crowe and freshman left-hander Josh Reagan. Both are in the mix for a starting role behind left-handers Jordan Montgomery and Jack Wynkoop. But Crowe also could also end up in the closer’s role along with hard-throwing freshman right-hander Matthew Vogel.

Holbrook and pitching coach Jerry Meyers are still sorting out the best spots for these pitchers, but they know the talent is there to finish games.

“Crowe is awfully good, and he’s going to be in a prominent role. We’re not quite there yet with how we’re going to use him. Vogel has been very impressive, too. He’s got probably the best stuff on our team as far as just closer’s stuff. He’s going to get some prominent innings, too,” Holbrook said.

“How we do it – do we just throw a freshman into that? – I don’t know. The good thing is whoever we put there in the eighth and ninth (innings) is going to have the ability to get some strikeouts.”

Holbrook also liked the way some of his players swung the bats Sunday, including first basemen Kyle Martin and Taylor Widener and shortstop Marcus Mooney, who also made several fine catches.

“We’re getting our legs under us from a live batting standpoint,” Holbrook said. “Seeing live pitching, it usually takes a little bit of time. We charged some balls today, and that was really good to see.”

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