Oregon lists its starting rotation as “to be determined” when Washington arrives at PK Park to open Pac-12 baseball play beginning Friday.
George Horton is waiting to announce who will throw the first pitch in each game against the Huskies because of injuries to his top two starters.
Kenyon Yovan is questionable as he continues to deal with discomfort in his hand while Ryne Nelson has been bothered by a bruised heel. Horton hopes to have them both on his 27-man roster for the series to pitch in some role against the Huskies.
“I think Nelly will be on the list, but I’m not sure how we will use him,” Horton said. “We will get more info on what is going on and hopefully he will get better and better, but he is not over the hump. Kenyon is day-to-day and it is just one crazy thing after another. We would love to have him back and maybe use him in relief.”
Cullen Kafka (2-0, 3.47 ERA) is expected to start the opener against UW at 6 p.m. Friday with Cole Stringer (1-0, 3.24) likely to pitch on the weekend. Sophomore Robert Ahlstrom (3-1, 3.60) is also a candidate to start.
The Ducks (10-5) would like to get some long performances from their starters to limit the bullpen that has allowed a run in 12 of 15 games as the relievers have compiled a 4.92 ERA.
Ahlstrom has been solid pitching mostly in relief, freshman Keaton Chase is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, and freshman Tyler Frazier has thrown two scoreless innings, but every other reliever has an ERA of 4.32 or higher.
“Our concern of youth and inexperience in the bullpen has revealed itself,” Horton said. “Guys have been good at times and very inconsistent.”
Pitching has usually been the strength for Horton’s teams, but the offense was more impressive than the arms during the nonconference slate. The Ducks are third in the Pac-12 with a .294 batting average and .400 on-base percentage.
Junior first baseman Gabe Matthews has 16 hits in his last 28 at-bats to rank eighth in the country with a .469 average with a .594 on-base percentage. Freshman Aaron Zavala is batting .368 with junior Spencer Steer and senior Jakob Goldfarb at .340 and .326, respectively.
“We were hopeful, but we’ve been hopeful before,” said Horton, whose Ducks batted .239 as a team last season. “We’ve gotten off to a terrific start at the plate. We’ve gotten a lot out of the freshmen.”
Washington (9-4), which reached the College World Series last season, is first up in conference play for the Ducks.
“As usual, a very difficult challenge,” Horton said of Pac-12 play. “It looks like a lot of teams are playing awfully well. The depth of the conference is incredible. Cal has the best player in America in its lineup and are not talked about. Washington was a College World Series team and is off to a good start so first and foremost for us is them. It looks like teams that are not ready to play quality baseball will get exposed.”