The 2014 Ole Miss baseball season officially gets underway in Deland, Fla. on Friday night, and as expected, junior right-hander Chris Ellis will be tossing the first pitch when the Rebels take the field.
Earlier this week, Mike Bianco revealed that Ellis, JUCO transfer Christian Trent and junior Sam Smith will be his starters, in that order, for the opening series against Stetson, according to Scout.com.
Ellis was expected to be a weekend starter last season behind Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers, but an abdominal injury limited him to just two starts. He struggled out of the bullpen, going 1-2 with a 5.57 ERA. He's got the tools, though: Perfect Game projects him as a first-rounder in the 2014 MLB Draft and Bianco calls him "the most talented guy we have," for whatever that's worth.
Smith replaced Ellis as the Sunday starter in 2013 and will fill that role again, at least for this weekend. He pitched admirably last year, going 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA, though he consistently struggled to make it past the middle innings. I had him pegged for the Saturday guy, but apparently Trent has done enough to nab that gig. Trent, who spent a year at LSU before transferring to Delgado Community College in New Orleans, will be the first southpaw Bianco's had in the rotation in a while.
It looks like Aaron Greenwood will start the year as the closer.
"At times he can be our best guy, and we like him from the bullpen," Bianco said of the senior righty. "We used him before to bridge the gap to the closer. We hope now to pitch him later and finish the game."
I find the qualifier "at times" amusing. Greenwood was lights out through the first half of last season, but utterly collapsed down the stretch. Hopefully that was fatigue more than anything, but we'll see.
Bianco also addressed his position players. He'll have Will Allen behind the plate, Sike Orvis at first, Preston Overbey and freshman Dalton Dulin in the mix at second, Austin Anderson at third and freshman Errol Robinson at shortstop. Auston Bousfield will likely hold down center field, with a rotation of Will Jamison, JUCO Braxton Lee and highly-touted freshman J.B. Woodman on either side.
The biggest surprise here is Overbey at second. John Gatlin was rumored to be in competition with Dulin, but Overbey makes sense considering how well he filled in at the position last season. If Dulin wins out, I'd expect Overbey to DH or slide to first in place of Orvis.
As long as Jake Overbey isn't on the field, I'm cool with whatever.