FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn hasn’t changed his weekend pitching rotation for nine weeks.
He sees no reason to change it for the 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament, either.
Van Horn said right-hander Barrett Astin (4-4, 2.02 ERA) will start the Razorbacks’ SEC Tournament opener on Wednesday morning. Arkansas will play the winner of Tuesday’s Ole Miss-Kentucky game at 9:30 a.m. Astin will start on shorter rest for the second straight week, but Van Horn said the junior is fine.
"He’s probably, obviously, our freshest starter," Van Horn said Monday morning. "It will give him about five days rest. ... He’ll be good to go. He wants to pitch."
Astin threw 93 pitches during Arkansas’ 3-0 loss at Auburn on Thursday night. He allowed three runs — all unearned — on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Astin did not start in the Razorbacks’ weekend series against potential opponent Ole Miss in March, but came out of the bullpen in relief of Ryne Stanek to allow one run on four hits in 2 2/3 innings during the finale. Meanwhile, Astin picked up the win during his start in the series opener at Kentucky earlier this month after allowing one run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Van Horn said he plans to start Stanek (8-2, 1.54 ERA) in Thursday’s game. Randall Fant will start the third game if Arkansas is still playing in the two-loss elimination portion of the SEC Tournament, which is a 12-team field this season. Fant (5-1, 2.08 ERA) only threw 53 pitches in 2 1/3 innings at Auburn last Saturday.
"Fant had his first bad outing probably in two months," Van Horn said. "He just did not throw strikes, which is really unusual for him this year. So he should be good to go. I guess if you just go on pitch count he would be available game two if we decided to go that way. As of right now, I don’t see anything changing."
Van Horn said Arkansas then would evaluate starting options if it plays four or five games this week.
"When we get late in this tournament, if we’re here, we’ll be pitching a young guy," Van Horn said. "Probably a freshman. And then we’ll be using that bullpen and piecing that together."