Baseball 3-19- Kevin Chapman
UF pitcher Kevin Chapman has not allowed a run this season in 11 2/3 innings of work. The Gators will count on him out of the bullpen in their weekend series against Mississippi State.

The purple scar slithers from the inside of Kevin Chapman’s elbow to the top of his forearm.

It is the only proof of the Tommy John surgery Chapman underwent in 2008 after tearing a ligament in his left elbow.

In his return this season, the southpaw has become No. 6 UF’s best reliever, and he will try to continue his scoreless streak tonight when Florida hosts Mississippi State at 7. The junior has yet to allow a run  in 11 2/3 innings this year.

“He was always a guy that scouts have coveted,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s not like he’s come out of nowhere. I think it was just a matter of time of ‘when is he going to start reaching his potential?’”

Chapman has overpowered hitters so far this year, and he estimates about 90 percent of his pitches have been fastballs. He can also throw breaking balls and changeups, but opponents are hitting just .128 against his mostly one-dimensional style.

Chapman’s heater reached a personal-best 95 mph Tuesday against FSU.

“Until they start hitting my fastball, I don’t think there’s any point in throwing a different pitch,” Chapman said.

Chapman likes O’Sullivan’s pitching philosophy more than that of Pat McMahon, UF’s previous coach. When Chapman was a freshman, McMahon told him to make batters chase bad pitches with two strikes.

O’Sullivan, on the other hand, wants Chapman to challenge hitters, which means more fastballs.

Chapman’s favorite pitch isn’t just overpowering; it also moves left-to-right about eight inches. Batters who catch up to the fastball have trouble making solid contact because they misjudge where the ball will be.

“It’s almost like he’s got two pitches in one,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s not only a 92-to-95-mph fastball, but it moves half the distance of the plate.”

Neither O’Sullivan nor Chapman blamed the left-hander’s injury on bad form, but he still re-worked his delivery while rehabbing.

Chapman used to slightly swing his arm behind his back before his follow-through, and now his motion is more direct.

“Sometimes an injury like that becomes a positive for you because you have eight, 10 months just to work on your mechanics,” O’Sullivan said.

Chapman also said time away from baseball made him more excited to play.

“They always say you never really know what you have until you lose it,” Chapman said. “I lost it for a little bit, so it really helped me realize how fun this game is and how much I’m blessed.”