Opening weekend rotation

It sounds as if Arkansas is going to start Blaine Knight, Isaiah Campbell and Keaton McKinney on opening weekend vs. Bucknell, likely in that order. Knight and Campbell will be on pitch counts of about 80, while McKinney’s will be much lower as he continues to rebuild his stamina after the Tommy John rehab.

I think Kacey Murphy is going to be the team’s No. 3 starter once SEC play begins, but there appears to be a good chance Arkansas will pitch off with him the first two or three weeks. By doing that, Murphy could face Arizona on a Wednesday night in San Diego. Dayton also is expected to save its No. 1 for Arkansas the following midweek.

The depth in the pitching staff is a strength right now. The coaches will watch McKinney really close and not risk getting him hurt early. This may be the deepest roster I can remember in the pitching staff.
I’m headed to hill nest Thursday night to stay for a couple of days and enjoy the diamond hogs! I’ll bring wet wether gear and be prepared. WPS!

It was good to see McKinney on the mound today. He looked comfortable.

If he can complete his come back it will be huge for him and the hogs. How do we look on defense?

I think the left side of the infield is strong with Jax Biggers at shortstop and either Jack Kenley or Hunter Wilson at third. Those are all good defenders.

The right side is a little iffy. Carson Shaddy is more comfortable at second now, but he has proven to be error prone. I think the players at first are going to be fine.

Dominic Fletcher has a good first step and a great arm in center field. Eric Cole has great speed to run down a ball in right and his arm strength is as good or better than Fletcher.

I haven’t seen enough of Heston Kjerstad in left to know what kind of defender he is. We know Luke Bonfield is an average defender in that role, which he will play some depending on matchups.

Grant Koch is fine behind the plate, but he won’t have to catch as much this season as he did last year. If you want a defensive replacement there, Casey Opitz probably is the guy. Zack Plunkett is probably the worst receiver of the three, but he has a good arm to second and he can hit.

Good analysis. Shaddy I believe is good on the double play with Biggers but he still loses his concentration at times. He has got to shore up his fielding. We need him at second. There is a log jam at the DH spot (no room there).

Van Horn said Shaddy was solid down the stretch last year at second base. His errors came early. In watching in the fall, I thought Shaddy had improved at second, too. But I didn’t see the World Series games. I was in the park for the scrimmages earlier in the fall. That’s when I seemed to notice Shaddy operating smoothly. I will say that if Casey Martin gets his bat going, Van Horn could have an interesting decision at second base. Martin might be as fine a talent as has come through in a few years. He’s got a lightning quick bat. Yes, he still gets fooled by off speed pitches, as most freshmen hitters do. The guy who may play his way into the lineup is Jordan McFarland. He’s had some practices since the return from break where he was outstanding. He’s a guy with power to all fields.

The issue with Shaddy has been the timing of his errors - 10 of his 16 were in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings last year, and almost all came during tight games. He had two during the ninth inning against Georgia that allowed the Bulldogs to send the game to extra innings.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but those numbers suggest he gets tight late in games.

His last error of the season was at the SEC Tournament. He had two in the final regular season series at Texas A&M.

I think Shaddy had one error in the fall series - a fielding error because he was not allowed to throw because of an injury to his throwing wrist. Overall, though, he had a good fall fielding the ball. I wrote this on him in the fall:

His weakness has been his fielding. Shaddy led the Razorbacks in errors each of the past two seasons, with 14 in 2015 and 16 last season.

“I feel like the last month of the season I showed I was more comfortable," Shaddy said. "Getting more experience at second has really helped me. I think this has been my best fall fielding and hitting. I just needed experience…I got put at second when I had never played second, so I knew there would be some growing pains.

“It’s nice to be able to sit in the same spot and try to excel there….I feel like my feet are better and my hands are better, and the game has just kind of slowed down a little bit, too.”

Van Horn, a former middle infielder, has worked extensively with Shaddy at second the past year. Shaddy missed some of fall practice with a wrist injury - it was unclear whether it was related to a 95 mph fastball from Jackson Rutledge that he took off the wrist - but Van Horn indicated he liked what he saw in the field from Shaddy when healthy.

“At some point instincts take over a little bit,” Van Horn said. “He knows where to be every time and I think he’s just gotten better with experience, repetition and just playing. He had a really good fall with the bat and the glove.”