FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Trey Killian will make his season debut when the Razorbacks wrap up their weekend series against South Alabama on Sunday.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn announced that Killian will start the series finale as part of a pitching rotation that includes Jalen Beeks and Chris Oliver. Killian was suspended by the NCAA for six games to start the season because of inappropriate contact with an agent/advisor. The contact occurred during his high school career.
"Just watching the way he’s practicing and his demeanor, I know that he’s really hungry to get back out there," Van Horn said. "He was disappointed that he couldn’t help the team the first couple of weekends. Big build-up for opening day, opening weekend, and he was a guy who would’ve been in the rotation the first weekend.
"He had some experience from last year and had a good summer. I’m just looking forward to seeing him pitch against somebody else, see how it goes."
Killian, who is from Mountain Home, went 3-3 with a 3.19 earned run average in 16 appearances with the Razorbacks as a freshman in 2013. Killian started five games, including Arkansas’ Southeastern Conference opener against Ole Miss.
Van Horn said Killian will be on a pitch count in his first start this weekend.
"We’ve been continuing to work him in the bullpen and throwing him in simulated type scrimmages to get his pitch count up," Van Horn said. "You know 50-60 pitches, maybe, maybe a little more. We’ll see how it goes."
Beeks and Oliver will earn their third straight starts, while freshman Alex Phillips has been bumped out of the weekend rotation after struggling in two Sunday starts.
Van Horn said Phillips will likely start Monday, though, when the Razorbacks wrap up a 10-game home stand against Indiana University-Purdue University Ft. Wayne.
"We had a scrimmage (Monday), again, it was a scrimmage, he was 86, 88 miles an hour which is three or four miles an hour harder than he’s thrown, Van Horn said. "I think he’s frustrated. Maybe he’s just said, ‘Ah, heck with it. It’s time for me to just pitch.’ He threw really well (Monday). I think he’ll get the start (against IPFW)."
Designated hitter KJ Wilkerson should be available after sitting out the Eastern Illinois series with a hamstring injury. Van Horn said Wilkerson, who is hitting .455 with one home run and two RBIs, hit the ball well during Monday’s scrimmage.
"I think putting his bat back in the lineup, it makes us a lot more physical," Van Horn said. "There’s a good chance he can hit one in the gap. He’s a tough out. Fouls a lot of pitches off. Doesn’t swing out of the zone too much and that’s what some of the other guys, the young guys do. They still don’t know the strike zone very well or they’re learning it. They’re jumpy and pressing or whatever.
"Wilkerson is pretty calm and he usually has some pretty quality at-bats."
The Razorbacks are still trying to sort out their bullpen with Beeks and Oliver performing well in starting roles so far this season. Van Horn knows he can count on two pitchers after six games – junior Michael Gunn and freshman Zach Jackson.
"Jackson has stood out to me," Van Horn said. "He’s got great stuff. He’s a freshman who was throwing awfully hard the other day, 93 and it’s still early. I think he will be throwing 95 in the next couple of months. If he doesn’t hurt himself, I think he’s a guy that can really help us out of the pen. There are a couple of other guys I need to see pitch a little bit more but those are two guys who have done a really good job."
Gunn (1-0, one save) has not allowed a run in 4 2/3 innings of relief in a closing role. Neither has Jackson, who has thrown six scoreless innings in two relief appearances.