Usually on Tuesday afternoons, baseball starting pitcher and senior Kevin Couture would be the very last option for USC coach Chad Kreuter.Another shot · Senior starter Kevin Couture will get a chance to start a second game after his previous start lasted just two-thirds of an inning. – Avi Kushlan | Daily Trojan However, Couture also usually makes it through the first inning in his Sunday start. Since he didn’t last weekend, when USC faces the Pepperdine Waves today, Couture will get the rare opportunity to start consecutive games.“We want him to go ahead and get back on the horse,” Kreuter said. “He needs to rebound and give us six strong [innings] similar to his first start [of the season].”The Trojans (5-6) will take to the road to try to end their recent struggles, having lost five of the last seven games, including Sunday’s 16-7 blowout by New Mexico to give the Lobos the 2-1 series win.But Sunday’s game, in which Couture pitched only two thirds of an inning, allowing seven hits and four runs, was an anomaly this season, as the starting pitching has usually kept USC close only to have the bullpen falter.“We’ve not pitched well in spots, particularly the first couple of innings Sunday and throughout the year in the bullpen,” Kreuter said. “Our pitch selection has to be better; our location needs to improve, and our pitchers need to pitch around situations better.”Kreuter also said that when relievers enter the game they need to either succeed or learn how to make the adjustments when they are struggling.He noted junior Chris Mezger as a model of a pitcher that has learned from his mistakes in his first outing of the season (one-third of an inning, two hits, one run) to be productive since (seven innings, no earned runs).The Trojans pitching staff could find reprieve in facing a Waves’ (4-7) lineup that is in a funk itself. Pepperdine is batting only .275. Instead of big boppers, the lineup features four partial or full-time starters batting at or below .200.Joe Sever and Torrey Jacoby are the only two Waves that have produced consistently, batting .362 and .351, respectively.USC’s bats will try to build on their last week of play. The Trojans averaged more than six runs in their four games led by Alex Sherrod’s six RBI and the play of sophomore first baseman Ricky Oropesa, who appears to be escaping his early-season struggles.Oropesa scored seven runs last week and went 4-8 in Sunday’s doubleheader, knocking a pair of doubles and a line-drive home run that jetted out of the ballpark like a missile.Dealing with some key injuries, Kreuter said he plans to continue to experiment with lineups in an attempt to find one that will maximize Oropesa’s production.“When Mike Greco was hurt two days before the season started, it really changed the dynamics of the lineup,” Kreuter said. “We expected him to be a power bat that could protect Ricky in the middle of the lineup.”In addition to Greco, Kreuter is currently without the services of his most productive hitter this season after junior infielder Matt Hart had to leave Sunday’s first game with what Kreuter described as impingement in his throwing shoulder. Hart, who had been one of Oropesa’s protectors, was evaluated by team physicians on Monday.“I have to figure out some way to protect [Oropesa], whether that be with him leading off or batting third and us trying to stack the deck around him,” Kreuter said. “But the bottom line is that we need to pitch better. That’s the key to us winning.”
It seems that the injury bug has followed the Yankees into the 2020 season.On Wednesday, the Yankees announced that starter James Paxton would be out for three to four months after undergoing surgery on his back. Earlier today, LHP James Paxton underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy with removal of a peridiscal cyst. The surgery was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas, Texas. His approximate timeline to return to Major League action is 3-4 months.— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) February 5, 2020MORE: When is Opening Day 2020?The news is brutal for the Bombers and Paxton. The Yankees faced similar troubles early last season when Luis Severino was shelved early in spring training with a shoulder issue. Severino missed most of the season while nursing the injury but did make a few starts down the stretch.Paxton’s situation is different, for a number of reasons: He’s not dealing with an arm injury, for one. He’s also set to be a free agent after the season, which could absolutely hurt his value in the immediate.Here’s what you need to know about Paxton’s injury:James Paxton injury update— Paxton threw 25 throws from 60 feet on March 11 and all went well. The lefty said he felt pain free.— Should all proceed smoothly, Paxton will begin throwing on Wednesday, March 11. — On March 5, Paxton told reporters he would begin throwing work within the next week, potentially as early as Friday, March 7.— The Yankees on Feb. 6 announced that Paxton would be out for three to four months after undergoing surgery to remove a peridiscal cyst from his back.Earlier today, LHP James Paxton underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy with removal of a peridiscal cyst. The surgery was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas, Texas. His approximate timeline to return to Major League action is 3-4 months.— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) February 5, 2020The surgery includes making a small incision along the affected area of the spine, and removing bone and disc material that can protrude and press on sensitive nerve areas in the back. It is a rare type of cyst that affects discs in the spine (per Spine.org.)The cyst can cause back pain and leg pain, depending on where it’s located.This is especially unfortunate for Paxton, considering he is a free agent following the season and would likely miss time into June or later, depending on how much work he gets in after being cleared to throw.James Paxton injury historyPaxton has dealt with an unfortunate injury history throughout his career:2019: Dealt with a knee injury that sidelined him for a month during the season. Also dealt with a sore glute later in the year, but was day-to-day.2018: A back injury sent him to the disabled list.2017: Dealt with a strained pectoral muscle, landed on the DL.2015: Landed on the DL with a strained tendon on the middle finger of his throwing hand.2014: Had a lat strain that saw him spend time on the (then) disabled list.MORE: Gerrit Cole is safe, ‘special’ $324 million bet for YankeesYankees’ rotation without PaxtonAs it stands, the Yankees’ rotation is still solid even without Paxton. 1. Gerrit Cole2. Luis Severino3. Masahiro Tanaka4. J.A. Happ5. Open competitionBefore the injury, Paxton likely would have slotted as the No. 2 starter behind Cole, splitting up the righties at the top of the rotation. The Yankees have several in-house candidates to break camp with the team:— Deivi Garcia, top prospect who will make his major league debut at some point during 2020.— Jordan Montgomery, who returned from Tommy John surgery in 2019.— Michael King, a top prospect who also was injured in 2019.— Jonathan Loaisiga, formerly an MLB Top 100 prospect, could spend time in the bullpen this season.