By MATTHEW STEVENS
The biggest concern in John Cohen’s office right now isn’t about preparing for a road series at Mississippi State's arch rival, but what’s going on down the hall – in the training room.
The laundry list of injured players continues to grow as the season reaches the deciding streak and includes a weekend series at arch rival Ole Miss in which the third-year head coach calls “the most important week of the season.”
“After every week it seems like we need to get those bodies healed up,” Cohen said. “So much on the line - so many of our kids - it's on television. Believe in the way they're focused."
Senior shortstop Jonathan Ogden still leads the list of players dealing with physical limitations as the Cypress, Texas native deals with the severely pulled muscle in his abdomen, continues to play with four stitches in his nose and still wears a walking boot from a foot injury that occurred last season.
“Oggie is fighting through this week and continues to battle his abdomen,” Cohen said.
While the shortstop, who came into weekend at Tennessee hitting .271, went just 1-for-8 in Knoxville but made significant contributions in the field on Sunday including a diving catch in short centerfield that saved a few runs in a 5-2 victory.
“We gave him one day of rest and he was on a mission (Sunday),” Cohen said. “That diving play in the outfield is the best I've ever seen.”
Cohen suggested it may be possible for Ogden to only play twice in a weekend and will be considered a game-time decision based on observations by the MSU coaching staff before the contest.
If Ogden’s unable to be completely healthy enough, freshman Adam Frazier has hit 5-for-7 against South Alabama and Tennessee when placed in the lineup in the co-captain’s place.
“It’s a couple of things - watching (Ogden) run around and a matchup thing - those two things,” Cohen said. “Really day-to-day - with how well Adam Frazier has done when he's gotten the opportunity."
Cohen confirmed Brent Brownlee twisted his knee in State’s 5-2 victory Sunday but not severely enough to be taken out of the contest or to be held out of Monday’s practice as well. Senior catcher/designated Cody Freeman was experiencing a pulled leg muscle and explains why the catching duties all three days fell on senior Wes Thigpen.
The good news on the injury front is on the mound where Devin Jones apparently pitched the final two innings of Friday’s 16-5 victory at Tennessee with a case of food poisoning. Jones, a Eupora native, has a 3.24 earned run average against Ole Miss in two career appearances that total 8.1 innings of work.
“Devin’s going to be a factor for us because again when that light turns on, it’s special,” Cohen said. “The kid is very, very talented. He reminds me of somebody that when he gets to 24-25 years old and your body really changes, he has a chance to be a big-time prospect professionally.”
Freshman C.T Bradford may be ready to see action as a pitcher after a severe hamstring pull limited his availability as a two-way player.
The former Mr. Baseball in the state of Florida was planned to be the first arm out of the MSU bullpen Sunday however Tennessee went with a right-handed dominant lineup leaving Bradford to being a late defensive replacement.
“It’s a sign his hamstring is getting better and better every single day,” Cohen said.
Bradford could be used to replace the lack of a left-handed reliever late in the game since sophomore Luis Pollorena was moved into opening-game starting rotation role. In four previous relief appearances, the power southpaw arm has thrown three shutouts that have includes seven strikeouts and just one walk.
Graveman to get the start against Mississippi Valley State
Sophomore right-hander Kendall Graveman will make his seventh mid-week start of the 2011 season when he takes the mound tonight for a 6:30 p.m. matchup versus Mississippi Valley State.
The Alexander City, Ala., native has picked up mid-week wins this season against Alcorn State, Eastern Illinois and Ole Miss at Trustmark Park in Pearl. The Mississippi State coaching staff texted the Starkville Daily News with the news that Graveman would get the ball first on Monday afternoon after stating in the media teleconference that the game against the Delta Devils will be a major bullpen effort before its series at Ole Miss this week.
The Bulldogs currently hold a perfect 19-0 record against the SWAC opponent and both teams decided Sunday evening to change its scheduled doubleheader to just one single nine-inning affair.
"I don’t think either side was really thrilled about the date and about playing a tomorrow doubleheader anyway,” Cohen said. “They're playing a doubleheader at La. Tech the next day anyway and playing two games didn't work well for us.”