Injuries continue to hurt the Crimson TideBy Cody Estremera | 04/17/2017 12:08am
Garret Rukes underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery after only seven appearances this season.
Coming into the season, depth was a problem for the Crimson Tide. Now halfway through the season, the problem has gotten worse.
Pitching depth was supposed to be a strong point to start the season. The team had Nick Eicholtz coming back from the draft, Jake Walters, who was the Saturday starter last season, and Dylan Duarte starting for the first time in his Alabama career as the starters.
Eicholtz was the first player to get hurt during the season. He experienced a foot injury. This led the senior to a 5.15 ERA in 36.2 innings of work.
Brock Love and Garret Rukes, who were the main two weekday starters, underwent Tommy John surgery ending their season. Love was 1-2 with a 7.02 ERA in six appearances. Rukes was 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA in seven appearances.
“I’ve had to deal with one Tommy John in 20-something years [of coaching], and we’ve had two in a two-week period,” head coach Greg Goff said. “It’s something that I’ve never experienced and something we need to get through.”
Walters has missed a start against Ole Miss because of a sore arm as well this season.
“Whenever you don’t have a lot of depth and you take four or five guys away from your staff, it's depleted,” Goff said. “We just have to get some guys to step up, and get more consistent in the guys we are using.”
Pitchers are not the only players getting hurt for the Crimson Tide. Gene Wood, who has been the starting center fielder for most of the season, is out for a couple of weeks with a knee injury that he experienced in the Ole Miss series.
Keith Holcombe injured his shoulder before leaving for football, and Kyle Kaufman, who is one of the main catchers in the rotation, has an injured finger. Kaufman is currently the designated hitter in the lineup.
Hunter Alexander is the most recent name on the growing list of injuries. He hurt his finger after sliding back into first base after a pickoff attempt. It is uncertain when he will be back.
“I hate it for our team,” Goff said. “The guy [Alexander] has been aggressive. He goes hard into the bag and pops his finger.”
Alexander is currently leading the team in multiple RBI games with six and is second on the team in multiple-hit games.
The injures were big in the weekend series against Texas A&M.
Kaufman’s injury limited him to just three hits in the series. Alexander’s injury came in the first game of the series, causing him to miss the rest of the series.
With Alexander’s injury, Goff had to change the positions. Chandler Taylor, who had played left field since Alexander’s move to the outfield, was placed back in right field, allowing Logan Carey to start in left. Walker McCleny started his second and third career games in center. The freshman went 2-for-7 and scored a run.
The pitching depth was a problem in the first two games of the series.
Walters started game one and went 4.2 innings. With the injuries to the long relievers, Alabama had to use three different pitchers to bridge the gap to the end of the game. Deacon Medders went the longest out of the three pitchers, going three innings and allowing two unearned runs.
In game two, Duarte only pitched 4.1 innings. Before his injury, Love would have been the first guy out of the pen in the long relief situation, but since he is still recovering from surgery, Zac Rogers, Mike Ozypok and Sam Finnerty pitched instead.
The Aggies swept the Crimson Tide, for the fifth consecutive SEC series loss and the third time it has been swept in SEC play this year.
Errors killed the Crimson Tide in the first game of the series. Alabama committed a season high five errors in the game, leading to five unearned runs. Chandler Avant committed three of the five errors.
“Coach Goff always tells us it’s about picking up your guys,” Taylor said. “We are always going to be resilient and pick up someone.”
Taylor finished the game 1-for-3 with a home run and two runs scored.
In game two, Alabama was overmatched. Texas A&M scored seven runs before Alabama even scored. The Aggies starter Corbin Martin dominated Alabama. In seven innings, he allowed one run off four hits, while striking out five.
“He had command on all his pitches,” Cobie Vance said. “He mixed well. There were a couple times where there would be a plus count for a hitter, and he would flip a slider out there and get us out front.”
Vance extended his hitting streak to nine games in the third game of the series, which ties the team high.
Alabama takes on Alcorn State on Tuesday at 6 p.m.