TCU right-hander Mitchell Traver will miss four to six weeks because of a muscle strain, leaving the Horned Frogs without their No. 1 starter going into Friday’s season opener.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle said Traver has a strain of the latissimus dorsi muscle, which runs from the side of the back to the shoulder. He hurt it pitching Friday in practice.
“No doubt, it’s a huge impact,” Schlossnagle said. “But things like this happen to teams every year. We’ve got to just find a way to recover from it. It certainly gives guys who maybe wouldn’t have pitched as much more of an opportunity.”
Traver was scheduled to start Game 1 of the season-opening series against Loyola Marymount at Lupton Stadium on Friday night.
Now the start will go to left-hander Rex Hill, a junior-college transfer and one of the dozen new pitchers for the Horned Frogs. Junior right-hander Brian Howard will start Saturday for TCU, followed by freshman right-hander Luken Baker on Sunday.
“We had planned on pitching Baker during the week, and now that’ll put him on the weekend,” Schlossnagle said. “I’m not sure who will pitch in the fourth game. We’re just going to get through the weekend. We’ll determine it as we go along.”
He’s handling it better than me, probably. He’s got such a strong faith, and he’s been through two major injuries. He’s been down this road.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, on Mitchell Traver’s injury
Traver is the most experienced returning pitcher for the Horned Frogs. He struck out 77 in 76.1 innings last season with a 1.89 earned-run average.
He has dealt with injuries before at TCU. As a freshman, he missed the start of the year because of a nerve issue and later had Tommy John surgery. As a sophomore, a stress fracture in his back caused him to miss the start of the year.
“He’s handling it better than me, probably,” Schlossnagle said. “He’s got such a strong faith, and he’s been through two major injuries. He’s been down this road. We certainly are sick for him, but it could be a lot worse. There are people out there dealing with a lot worse. We’re just going to work our way through it.”
A six-week time frame would put Traver’s return at the end of March. The Big 12 schedule begins March 18 with a three-game series against West Virginia.
“Over the course of a long season, if everybody handles it the right way, it has a chance to make you stronger by the end of the year,” Schlossnagle said.
Howard, Baker impress
Schlossnagle was encouraged by the work of Howard and Baker in an intrasquad game Sunday. They combined for nine strikeouts, two walks and one run allowed in 10 innings. They each pitched five innings and walked one. Baker struck out five in a shutout appearance.
“Howard and especially Baker pitched as well as they’ve pitched at TCU,” Schlossnagle said. “And we had some guys pitch really well out of the bullpen in the Alumni Game.”
The team will scrimmage again Tuesday night, this time under the lights at Lupton Stadium.
Schlossnagle praised the play of freshman Ryan Johnson in right field during the Alumni Game and said he and left fielder Josh Watson, also a freshman, have a tough job making a transition from playing center field in high school to corner outfield in college.
“That’s been a big growth process for them,” Schlossnagle said.
Senior Dane Steinhagen, who played left field last year, is playing center field in place of Nolan Brown, who is recovering from hand surgery.
“Ryan Johnson played outstanding in the outfield,” Schlossnagle said. “Rex Hill didn’t pitch great, but he pitched well enough against a really good lineup to keep us in the game. It could have been worse for Rex had Ryan not played so well in the outfield.”
TCU vs. Loyola Marymount
6:30 p.m. Friday
2 p.m. Saturday
1 p.m. Sunday