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Whitson still out as No. 1 Florida baseball heads to Ole Miss

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Posted: Friday, March 30, 2012 12:30 am

Karsten Whitson won’t take the mound for the Gators this weekend.

It’s nothing new.

The right-hander from Chipley hasn’t pitched in a game in more than a month. Whitson entered his sophomore season looking for a marquee year, but now he will once again be watching from the dugout when No. 1 Florida (23-2, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) takes on No. 16 Ole Miss (18-7, 3-3 SEC) in a three-game series beginning tonight at 7:30 at Oxford-University Stadium.

“Obviously he’ll be on a pitch count, but he’s ready,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said more than a week ago. “We’ve been very careful with it, but he looks great and he feels great.”

The plans were for Whitson to either start in Tuesday’s win against Florida State or this weekend against Ole Miss. He was not made available to the local media after the announcement came Thursday that Whitson would once again sit out against the Rebels. However, O’Sullivan did speak with Kendall Rogers, managing editor of baseball scouting service Perfect Game.

According to Rogers, O’Sullivan said Whitson continues to look “great” in bullpen sessions but that he’d like to see one or two more sessions before starting him. O’Sullivan told Rogers he was hoping for a return next week but does not want to rush Whitson.

The last time fans saw Whitson he was a shell of his former self. In a Feb. 26 start against William & Mary, O’Sullivan pulled Whitson in the first inning after just 13 pitches and two outs.

“You could tell he wasn’t feeling his best,” O’Sullivan said after the game. “You’ll see early-season stuff where the arm just doesn’t bounce back as quickly as you want. I’m sure he’s going to be fine.”

But after that weekend, each week added to the mystery of when Whitson would really come back. The reasons for his absence were never entirely clear.

After a promising freshman campaign, Whitson missed a majority of pitching time in the fall with a groin injury. He began spring bullpen workouts earlier than the other pitchers and appeared ready to go during an impressive outing in his final preseason scrimmage.

O’Sullivan explained the contrast from a scrimmage in which Whitson threw in the mid-90s to the outing against William & Mary, when Whitson was clocked in the mid-80s, by saying arms just aren’t always consistent at the start of the year.

“It happens a lot and you see that in spring training with big-league pitchers and it’s just one of those things,” O’Sullivan said. “The most important thing is structurally it’s fine. He’s in great spirits and I know he wants to be out there, but once again, it’s not going to be until he’s 110 percent.”

Heading into the season, Whitson was excited to eliminate the restraints that were on him as a freshman. He was looking forward to extending his pitch counts and going further into games.

Now he just looks to be on the field again, whenever that may be.

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