Who Will Pitch on Saturday for the Wildcats?

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats have played 3 games in 3 days and Gary Henderson had to mix and match his bullpen in the twelve inning victory Thursday night Friday morning. Let's take a look at the State of the Staff and see who might be available for Saturday's semi-final game.

The Kentucky Wildcats' starting pitching staff has been in constant state of flux ever since injuries to sophomore Kyle Cody in March and junior Chandler Shepherd in April forced Gary Henderson to go deep into his bullpen just to get enough bodies to fill out a rotation.  Cody has slowly made his way back into the rotation, but he is still working on going deep into games - his 5.1 innings Wednesday night was his longest outing since Feb. 23 against St. John's (or at least I think it is, his game log on ukathletics doesn't list any of his May appearances for some bizarre reason).  Shepherd made a start against Auburn on May 10 but has otherwise worked in relief since returning.  Sophomore Dylan Dwyer moved to the weekend rotation as a result of the injuries, but hasn't been effective recently and he currently holds a 5.46 ERA.

So while other SEC teams entered the conference tournament with 3 or 4 proven starters, Kentucky had just one: junior lefty A.J. Reed.  Thus far Gary has made it work - the Cats got a gutty performance Tuesday by A.J. Reed and only needed to use Andrew Nelson to finish the game while Cody and Shepherd combined to shut down Florida on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, the lack of a viable third starter required a combined effort by 4 players to win the game Thursday night.  If UK had lost that game, I don't know what they would have done today.

Rarely has a baseball team needed a day off as much as the Wildcats do today.

Fortunately though, the Cats won and they get that much needed day of rest.  There is still a question of who might be available tomorrow, so let's look at where everyone on the pitching staff stands at the moment.  The idea for the chart below is shamelessly stolen from Athletics Nation writer Jeremy Koo and shows how recently each player has pitched over the past week and how many pitches they threw in each appearance.  The table is based on Saturday's game, so 1 day ago is actually today (Friday).



Days Ago

ERA 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Last pitched
A.J. Reed 2.10


92



Chandler Shepherd 3.36

57


26
Andrew Nelson 3.76


44



Spencer Jack 1.19
45





Kyle Cody 2.65

73




Zach Strecker 4.34
42



10
Logan Salow 5.16






May 3
Zack Brown 5.32
64



52
Dylan Dwyer 5.46





33
Taylor Martin 6.00






April 25
Ryne Combs 6.55





36
Matt Snyder 8.00






April 25
Sam Mahar 8.22
17





Robert Zeigler 10.38






March 8

The biggest question mark is the status of Dylan Dwyer.  I can't find any information concerning his availability, but he would be a logical choice to pitch tomorrow since he would be operating on full rest.  If he can't go - or even if he can - we will probably see Henderson try to piece together a game using several players as he did against Mississippi St.  Ryne Combs might get the start in the event that Dwyer can't go.  Technically, Combs has started 4 games this year, but those starts consisted of a total of 11 innings with his longest outing consisting of 4 innings against Western Kentucky on March 18.  Even if Ryne gets the call, we can assume that he will only be able to go 3 or 4 innings at most, much like Zack Brown did Thursday night.

Sam Mahar will probably be available as will Andrew Nelson.  It's not inconceivable that Shepherd could throw an inning.  Those are probably the only players who have pitched in the tournament already who would be available Saturday.  That makes Dwyer's availability all the more imperative and places more pressure on the offense to score a lot of runs.

The good news is that if Kentucky can somehow find a way to win Saturday, Reed could try to come back on short rest again to start the championship game and Cody would probably be available for a couple of innings out of the pen since he only threw 73 pitches on Wednesday.  Thursday's pitchers also would be available and Kentucky would have a lot more options to use in the game.

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