TCU may redshirt center fielder, moves freshman into weekend rotation

TCU outfielder Nolan Brown, pictured in batting practice at Lupton Stadium on May 28, 2015, has only three at-bats in 2016 as he recovers from hamate bone surgery.
TCU outfielder Nolan Brown, pictured in batting practice at Lupton Stadium on May 28, 2015, has only three at-bats in 2016 as he recovers from hamate bone surgery. Star-Telegram

TCU is considering a redshirt season for center fielder Nolan Brown, giving him a year to recover from hand surgery that has limited him to just three at-bats.

The team will likely decide by the end of the week, coach Jim Schlossnagle said. Saturday marks the halfway point of the season.

“If he plays Sunday or later, you can’t redshirt him,” Schlossnagle said.

Brown, a senior from Colleyville Heritage, was in line to play center field and lead off for the Horned Frogs in 2016 after starting 65 games in right field last year, hitting .302 and stealing 19 bases.

Jim Schlossnagle will coach in his 900th game on Tuesday when TCU visits UT Arlington. He is 611-288 in 15 seasons, two at UNLV and 13 at TCU.

But he broke the hamate bone in his right hand during fall practices and had surgery in January.

He has appeared in 13 games, mainly as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He has three at-bats, going hitless with a walk, and a stolen base. He took one round of batting practice last week but has not felt entirely comfortable.

“We’re probably better off letting it settle down the rest of the year,” Schlossnagle said.

Dane Steinhagen has played all 23 games in center field this season. Austen Wade has been the leadoff hitter the past 10 games. Connor Wanhanen led off in the first 13 games.

Rotation change

Freshman left-hander Dalton Horton, who struck out 10 in his last outing, is taking over as the Sunday starter this week at Wichita State, and Rex Hill will pitch Tuesday at UT Arlington.

“It’s hard to ignore his success,” Schlossnagle said of Horton (3-0, 2.91). “He’s earned an opportunity to pitch on the weekend.”

Hill (2-1, 5.40) is coming off a 1.2-inning outing at Texas in which he gave up five hits, three runs, a walk and a wild pitch. He has the highest ERA among the starters and the highest batting average against (.346).

Schlossnagle said UT Arlington will be a good test for Hill, a junior right-hander who transfered from San Jacinto College.

“UTA has the best offensive team I’ve seen them have in a long time,” Schlossnagle said. “It may seem like a demotion to him, but there are times when the midweek games become more important to your RPI than some of the ones in conference, because they’re on the road. They all know everybody’s going to have to pitch.”

Traver schedule

Right-handed starter Mitchell Traver began a throwing program Monday and remains on track to pitch in three weeks, Schlossnagle said.

“If there are no setbacks, we’re 10 to 14 days from him actually throwing off the bound in a bullpen, which puts him three weeks from pitching in a game,” Schlossnagle said.

Traver suffered a muscle strain in his back on Feb. 12, a week before the season opener, which he was scheduled to pitch.

The Horned Frogs play a midweek game at Abilene Christian in three weeks, then head to Oklahoma State for a three-game series April 22-24.

Howard performance

Schlossnagle called Brian Howard’s pitching performance in Game 2 of the Texas series “the best he’s ever pitched at TCU.”

Howard struck out nine in eight innings, walked none and allowed five hits in a 2-0 loss, his first of the season. He threw 100 pitches, following up a 104-pitch outing against West Virginia. The 6-9 junior right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.35 earned-run average and 38 strikeouts and 11 walks in 38.1 innings.

“His endurance is good,” Schlossnagle said. “It never has been great. He’s never pitched deep into games here. But against West Virginia he went seven innings. Saturday he pitched a complete game. And he’s throwing all his pitches for strikes.”

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez