TCU could start the season without center fielder Nolan Brown, who had surgery for a broken hand last week.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle said it will be four to six weeks of recovery for the senior from Colleyville, the top returning run scorer from a year ago.
“Four weeks puts him right at opening day,” Schossnagle said. “We’re still holding out hope that he can be ready right as the season begins.”
Brown, who hit .302 a year ago and started all 65 games, is expected to be the leadoff hitter. He will play in center field this year. Last season, he played all 65 games in right and had two errors for a .984 fielding percentage.
It’s a very, very common injury for a hitter. He’ll get over it. It’s just a matter of four weeks or more. Hopefully four.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, on Nolan Brown’s hamate bone surgery
The injury was to Brown’s hamate bone. Schlossnagle said previous TCU players such as Jerrick Suiter and Kevin Cron also had the injury.
“It’s a little bone in your hand. All the constant swings and pressure snaps that,” Schlossnagle said. “It’s a very, very common injury for a hitter. He’ll get over it. It’s just a matter of four weeks or more. Hopefully four.”
Josh Watson, a freshman from Arlington Martin, has a chance to start in left field and hit second for TCU.
Schlossnagle said the Horned Frogs “really like” the switch-hitter, who hit .365 with 30 doubles and 11 home runs in four years at Martin.
The lineup will also include junior transfers Ryan Merrill at shortstop and Cam Warner at second base. Another junior transfer, Mason Hesse, “can really defend,” Schlossnagle said, and will also play.
Schlossnagle said the likely lineup will start with Brown leading off, Watson hitting second, Connor Wanhanen third, Luken Baker cleanup and catcher Evan Skoug fifth. The bottom of the lineup will have outfielders Dane Steinhagen or Ryan Johnson, third baseman Elliott Barzilli, and Merrill and Warner.
Schlossnagle said there is a lot to sort through with 18 pitchers on the roster. Mitchell Traver and Baker are the most firm candidates for the rotation.
Veterans Brian Howard, Brian Trieglaff and Drew Gooch have started and pitched in relief. Ryan Burnett is coming off an elbow injury that interrupted his season last year. Preston Guillory allowed one earned run in 20 relief appearances last year.
“The key’s going to be some of these guys who haven’t pitched in major roles yet — Traver, Howard, Burnett — elevating themselves to bigger roles on the team,” Schlossnagle said.
This team, when it’s healthy, is going to have some power, some offensive upside that we haven’t had in the past.
Schlossnagle on the 2016 lineup
The Frogs, with 10 freshmen on the staff, will look at a lot of pitchers.
“There’s only one or two in my mind right now who would redshirt,” Schlossnagle said. “Everybody’s going to have an opportunity to earn something.”
Schlossnagle said the new pitchers will need time.
“Their first Division I appearance may not go as planned, but we’re going to have to keep running them out there,” Schlossnagle said. “The only way to develop a pitching staff is to keep using them, keep giving them opportunities.”
▪ Schlossnagle enters the season one win from tying Lance Brown for most victories at TCU. Schlossnagle is 516-236 in 12 seasons. Lance Brown was 517-471 in 17 seasons.
▪ TCU is ranked in five national polls with the highest being No. 11 in the USA Today coaches poll. They are No. 15 in the Collegiate Baseball Poll, No. 18 in Baseball America and No. 19 in D1baseball.com and Perfect Game.
▪ The Horned Frogs return 15 letterwinners from last season’s 51-15 team, including four position players and six pitchers. The roster includes 18 newcomers.