FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas still has work to do if it plans to reach the NCAA Tournament for the 12th straight season under coach Dave Van Horn.
It could be without starting pitcher Jalen Beeks this weekend as well.
Van Horn said Monday during the monthly Swatter’s Club meeting that Beeks is questionable for this weekend’s series against No. 20 Texas A&M at Baum Stadium because of arm soreness. The junior struggled in his last start, surrendering 7 runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings during a 7-4 loss to Ole Miss last Saturday.
Van Horn said he and pitching coach Dave Jorn believe Beeks has been “wearing down a little bit” after logging 12 starts.
“Here’s a guy that started all the time in high school, stated all the time in junior college his freshman year,” Van Horn said. “Last year as a sophomore he was a bullpen guy that would come in and get after it pretty good. But then he went to summer ball and he started all summer. We took care of him in the fall.
“We just thought maybe he’s getting a little tired. So we’ll see how that goes this week. We’ll just go from there.”
Beeks has been one of Arkansas’ most dependable pitchers after moving from his bullpen role in 2013 to the starting rotation.
The left-hander was the Razorbacks’ opening-day starter and has remained in the weekend rotation throughout the season. Beeks, who is 5-4 with a 2.11 earned run average, leads Arkansas in innings (76 2/3) and strikeouts. He also has thrown two complete games, which is second on the team behind Trey Killian (four).
Van Horn said Arkansas will likely start Killian and Chris Oliver the first two games of the Texas A&M series if Beeks doesn’t pitch. Then the Razorbacks would decide who would start the finale. Left-hander Colin Poche (3-0) is a possible replacement.
“We’ll just see how he feels and tomorrow,” Van Horn said. “Just try to be cautious with him. If we feel like there’s a problem, we’re going to get it looked at. If not, we’ll just play it day to day and see how he is by Thursday, Friday.”
But Beeks isn’t the only injured player the Razorbacks will monitor this week.
Arkansas two catchers — Jake Wise (concussion) and Blake Baxendale (hamstring) — also suffered injuries in the series loss at Ole Miss. Wise was injured after a collision Saturday, while Baxendale was hurt Sunday and had to be replaced by pitcher Jackson Lowery behind the plate for the final few outs of the 11-1 win.
Van Horn said Wise — who has thrown out an SEC-best 20 base runners — will undergo concussion tests to determine whether he can play in the series opener.
“We’re hoping that he might be ready for Friday or Saturday,” Van Horn said. “He wasn’t very good during the game (Saturday). He was a lot better (Sunday). …
“Hopefully, he’ll be ready by the weekend.”
Arkansas also will evaluate Baxendale — who is hitting .290 with a home run and 21 RBIs — throughout the week. Van Horn credited Baxendale for “gutting it out” throughout the series finale, but removed him after a two-run single in the ninth inning pushed Arkansas’ lead to 10-1.
Van Horn deemed Baxendale’s injury as a hamstring strain and will know his status after a couple days of treatment. Either way, Van Horn said he has no plans to pull the redshirt off freshman catcher Alex Gosser at this point and would use Lowery or outfielder Tyler Spoon – who caught in his school – in an emergency.
“The only way I’m going to use Gosser, who’s our third catcher, is if we had a season-ending injury to Wise,” Van Horn said. “That would be the only way.”
Arkansas (30-20, 11-13 in SEC) will need to perform no matter who is in the lineup against Texas A&M, which is coming off a series win against LSU.
The Aggies (30-19, 12-12) have moved ahead of Arkansas in the SEC West after consecutive series wins against Mississippi State and LSU. Arkansas is one game behind Texas A&M in the SEC West — and in ninth overall in the conference standings —after series losses to Auburn and Ole Miss.
“They’re playing really well right now, and they’re really confident,” Van Horn said. “They could have won all three of those games. LSU made an incredible catch on Friday to save that game. They’re hot, so we’ve got our hands full.”