The waiting continues for Chad Holbrook as he hopes to get this full team back.
Center fielder Tanner English, who pinch-ran Tuesday against The Citadel, has begun to throw for the first time since injuring his right shoulder more than two weeks ago. He’s medically cleared to play, and his bat, speed and defense would be a big help against No. 21 Arkansas.
“I expect him to be more of a significant contributor this weekend,” Holbrook said.
There’s less certainty about left-fielder Graham Saiko, who strained ligaments and suffered a bone bruise in his left wrist trying to make a diving catch last weekend. Holbrook doesn’t expect him to play Friday, but he’s holding out hope for later in the weekend.
The Gamecocks will not have ace left-hander Jordan Montgomery for at least two more weekends. His MRI this week showed his arm injury was healed enough to start a throwing program this coming Monday, but the earliest he will return is the Tennessee series April 5-7.
But even then, it might not be in a starting capacity until he works his arm back into shape. It’s more likely that he would return to the rotation against Florida on April 11-13.
Holbrook wasn’t ready to announce Sunday’s starter. With senior right-hander Colby Holmes (1-2, 5.16) struggling, Holbrook might make a switch. He’s also considering freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop (4-0, 1.40).
But Wynkoop threw 74 pitches in Tuesday’s win against The Citadel, which means he might be more suited to a relief role Sunday. Senior left-hander Adam Westmoreland (1-0, 1.06) could get consideration but only if he isn’t needed in relief in the Friday or Saturday games.
Senior left-hander Nolan Belcher’s pitching line is hard to believe. In five starts, he’s 4-1 with a 1.25 ERA. He has walked one hitter while striking out 36 in his 36 innings.
Holbrook calls those numbers unheard of, and he’s really happy to see Belcher develop into a frontline SEC starter in his final season, two years after Tommy John surgery.
“Now, his command is back. Now, he has confidence. Now, he can throw any pitch in any count,” Holbrook said.