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Smith Column: MSU starters need to find consistency

April 12, 2011

Sports Editor

The starting pitching rotation hasn't worked out like the Mississippi State Bulldogs wanted during Southeastern Conference weekends.
Some plans have been put into place to get that fixed.
MSU head coach John Cohen and pitching coach Butch Thompson have moved Chris Stratton to Friday and Nick Routt to Saturday with a starter to be announced for Sunday prior to this weekend's series at Arkansas.
In the first four league series, the Bulldogs went with Eupora native Devin Jones on Fridays and Stratton on Saturdays.
Routt has worked his way back from an elbow injury the last couple of weeks and has been performing better on Sundays as his pitch count increases.
The MSU coaching staff has shifted some things around in order to find some consistency.
Jones and Stratton have been good in spots, but no overall outing could be termed outstanding.
Stratton gave up four runs on 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings against Vanderbilt, four runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings against Auburn, four runs on seven hits in six innings against Georgia, and only lasted 1 2/3 innings with seven runs given up on three hits against Florida.
For Jones, he allowed eight runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings against Vanderbilt, four runs on three hits in three innings against Auburn, two runs on three hits in five innings against Georgia, and four runs on eight hits in three innings against Florida.
There's nothing really eye-catching about any of those stat lines from Stratton and Jones since the SEC schedule began.
Stratton's move to the Friday night slot seems to be a smart move, but he's still going to have to be a more effective pitcher for the Bulldogs if he's to get the baseball first.
Cohen said there were several factors that caused Stratton's poor outing against the Gators.
"(It was) the umpire's zone on that day and how Stratton is on that day," Cohen said during a Monday teleconference. "He pitched very similar against Vanderbilt and all of sudden there he found it. Pitching (Stratton) on Friday is probably something we should look to do at this point and time."
Cohen still believes Jones is special and says he still has a role.
"If we could pinpoint one thing that's wrong with him in conference play, that would be easy to fix," Cohen said. "Devin is one of those extremely talented kids and I think really has every coach in the league has a Devin Jones type kid where you know he’s going be a great pro prospect.
"He’s a kid that doesn’t have great, great success in college but could be successful as a big leaguer. I liken him a little bit to (current Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan) Papelbon.”
There's still over half of the conference slate to be played and MSU stands in third place in the SEC Western Division with some key series coming up.
The Bulldogs have games remaining with Alabama and Arkansas, the two teams ahead of them in the standings.
MSU can still make the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., and be in position for an NCAA Regional.
If the Bulldogs do happen to make the postseason, they are going to need a strong pitching rotation to make a serious run.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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