When you look at the Gamecocks' injury list, the fact that South Carolina has continued to hover in or around the top 10 in most of the major baseball polls seems somewhat miraculous. It's not actually a miracle, of course, but a testament to the depth that Chad Holbrook has been able to cultivate and the precious clutch hitting of freshmen like Gene Cone and Jordan Gore. Still, getting key contributors like Connor Bright and Max Scrhock back in the lineup would be a significant boost to the Gamecocks' hopes of returning to Omaha this June. Coach Holbrook spoke with SportsTalk on Tuesday afternoon and provided updates on a handful of his injured stars.
Holbrook wants to believe that second baseman Max Schrock will return at some point this season but acknowledges that such hopes are not necessarily well-grounded in the reality of sophomore's nagging back injury. Schrock has battled through myriad ailments in 2014, but his most recent injury forced him out of South Carolina's 10-8 loss to The Citadel on April 16 and has kept him out of action ever since.
"I think it's 50-50 [whether or not Schrock is done for the year]," said Holbrook. "He's moving around a little bit better. He's walking better. He seems to be in better spirits. I don't want to get my hopes up too high. He doesn't think he's done for the year yet, but I also know that sometimes back injuries are slow to heal. I have to think logically through this thing. While I'm hopeful he's not done for the year, I'm not counting on him playing unless he knocks on my door and says, 'I'm feeling great.'"
Connor Bright's bizarre exit from the Friday night game against Alabama and subsequent hospitalization left concerns about the junior's health and the Gamecocks' ability to score runs without one of the best on-base threats in their lineup. Fortunately, the issue appears to be under control and Bright is expected to return to action soon.
"I don't know if we know with 100 percent certainty, but kind of what they've realized is he had a very significant wrap on his elbow for support and it might have been a circulation thing in which he got really light headed, really pale, and sick. That's really the only thing they can kind of put their finger on. He has recovered greatly from that. He feels fine. They're just taking extra precaution with his elbow to make sure they don't move it, don't exercise it, don't do anything to aggravate it this week. And then hopefully we'll test it Wednesday or Thursday of this week."
Though South Carolina should get him back at some point this season, Holbrook conceded that Bright's status remains up-in-the-air for this weekend's road series against the Georgia Bulldogs.
"He didn't come down to practice today. Hopefully he'll start feeling better toward the end of the week. It's iffy this weekend for him. Max Schrock's in the same boat as Connor is. It's a day-to-day situation. They both did not practice today, so their availability right now is unknown as far as this weekend's concerned."
The South Carolina bullpen has mostly been anchored by stellar performances from Cody Mincey and Joel Seddon, but getting Vince Fiori would add some much-needed depth to the rotation. Fiori left the Gamecocks' April 16 loss to The Citadel with a strained lattissmus dorsi and has not returned since. Holbrook said that Fiori is "doing better" and will throw a bullpen session later this week to determine if he's able to travel with the team to Athens, Ga. this weekend.
Meanwhile, Elliott Caldwell appears to be done for the year after an MRI revealed a "pretty significant injury" that will keep the junior out for six to eight weeks.
"Other guys are healing. Joey [Pankake] is getting better. Grayson [Greiner] is getting better. Hopefully we can get Vince, Connor, and Max better and get a little bit more healthy before we go down the stretch run."