Spoon Keeping Options Open, But Return Likely

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas outfielder Tyler Spoon isn’t prepared to say he’s returning to the Razorbacks next season after being selected in the 36th round of the Major League Baseball Draft earlier this month.

The redshirt sophomore wants the process — which can stretch to the July 18 signing date for amateurs selected in the 40-round draft if necessary — to play out. But Spoon offered a pretty good indication of his plans last week.

“I set my number pretty high,” Spoon said about his financial asking price. “We’ll see what happens. I would love to come back. I mean, it’s the University of Arkansas.”

Coach Dave Van Horn and the rest of the Razorbacks would love to see Spoon return for his junior season as well. The two-year starter was one of six Razorbacks selected during the 2014 MLB Draft, but remains the most likely to be back in 2015.

Spoon still has bargaining power after wrapping up a down year in 2014, hitting .256 with 3 home runs and 37 RBIs. It didn’t match his redshirt freshman success, when Spoon hit .288 with 4 home runs and 49 RBIs.

“I think Tyler got in his own head a little bit,” Van Horn said earlier this month. “A little pressure. He wanted to play pro ball, have a big year.”

So the chance to have a big season as a draft-eligible junior is enticing.

“I obviously had higher expectations than what I did,” Spoon said. “But you know, I can honestly say at the end of the day I gave it everything I had. Unfortunately it just wasn’t a great season statistically. Hopefully next year … I want to do a lot better.

“I want to spend a lot of this summer getting a lot stronger and bigger and just more physical honestly. And do everything I can to be better next year.”

Spoon said he was hindered in preparation for the 2014 season because of a sports hernia. The injury kept him out of the weight room much of the offseason, leaving the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Spoon to say he felt weak through much of the year.

Van Horn also said earlier this month nagging injuries bothered Spoon most of the season. It included a sore wrist.

“He probably wouldn’t say anything,” Van Horn said. “He’s a pretty tough kid. But that wrist was bothering him and he needs to get that healed up.”

Spoon acknowledged the wrist issue last week, but wouldn’t say it hurt his play.

“It was just one of those little annoying things,” Spoon said. “I’m not going to tell you that’s why I hit bad at all. That’s not at all the reason. But it’s one of those little nagging things that just wouldn’t go away. So I just needed a little rest.”

Spoon won’t play baseball in one of the college summer leagues, using the time off to rest and gain strength. He said his summer goal is to “get more physical” in hopes of becoming more consistent if he does return to Arkansas for the 2015 season.

Spoon’s return would be a lift to the Razorbacks, who must replace top hitter Brian Anderson and home run leader Eric Fisher. Spoon would be part of an offense that has promise, though, with veteran Joe Serrano and talented freshmen like Andrew Benintendi, Clark Eagan, Blake Baxendale and Alex Gosser returning.

“We had a lot of young guys last year,” Spoon said. “They jumped on board real quick with everything. … We’re still going to be a young team, but we’re going to have a lot of talent as well. I’m looking forward to it.”

Of course, Spoon still is waiting to decide if he’ll be part of it – officially.

He hasn’t set a personal deadline for making a decision regarding next season, but would like to have it finalized in the next couple of weeks.

For now, he has an internship that will help with his goal of graduating by the end of next year. He’ll let the nagging injuries heal and work on adding strength in anticipation of the next time he steps on the field.

“It’s very relaxing,” Spoon said. “It’s not as stressful for sure just knowing that if it doesn’t work out I’ve got two more years to come back. And if it does work out, then great, I get to start professional career. It’s definitely not as stressful.

“It makes it more, just calm and relaxed and making the process a lot easier.”