Heading into the third weekend of Pac-12 play, the Arizona Wildcats may be getting a crucial defensive piece back in the lineup when they host the USC Trojans this weekend.
Louis Boyd, who suffered a left arm injury on February 26th against McNeese State, was supposed to miss six weeks, but it looks like it could end up being closer to five.
“Possibly,” head coach Jay Johnson said when asked if Boyd would be in the lineup this weekend. “He’s emptying the tank. This might be it for him and his baseball career so he wants to get out there and make a positive contribution to what we’re doing.”
“There’s some tests with that we have to pass,” Johnson expanded on what has to happen. “I’m comfortable with saying I think he can play defense right now. He took some batting practice (Monday) on his own, and the communication was that he felt good in doing that. We’re going to see him against a live pitcher (Tuesday), and we’ll assess that. But if we can use him in any capacity that’s going to be a positive for our team.”
As a Canadian, Boyd has that mentality hockey players are known for, which makes it harder for Arizona’s coaching staff to truly assess how he is physically.
“That’s a problem,” Johnson joked. “I love him and I hate him for it. I was amazed last week when he did some live defensive stuff with us. I was almost caught off-guard that he’s really tough or you have some special healing going on in that arm.”
Two things have been missing from the team the past several weeks that Boyd should be able to provide. Those things are defense and leadership in the infield.
“If he comes back, that gives us another defender,” senior pitcher JC Cloney said of Boyd’s impact. “We could always use some defense and some good, sure hands, so it’ll be good for the team to have some veteran leadership come back as well.”
“Kyle Lewis has been an unsung hero for us last year and this year,” Johnson said about Boyd’s replacement in the early going of Pac-12 play. “We’re asking him to do something he’s never really done in his life, in the Pac-12, which is be an everyday shortstop for a few weeks. He did an admirable job.”
The leadership role of a shortstop, especially a senior like Boyd, means a lot to everyone, including the pitchers that are out there.
“When you’re out there in the middle of the game, you can’t be turning to your dugout guys to figure things out,” Cloney explained. “You need your guys beside you, so for him to be a senior, having played in the College World Series, the big stage isn’t a shock for him, so when we travel wherever we go to, and there’s a freshman out there and they have a question, he’s there to answer it.”
“He just has that calming tone to him,” continued Cloney. “He kind of has a reassuring confidence that he brings to you whenever you’re on the mound. When things hit the fan, he can kind of come up and say a couple words to you and he gives you that tone that all the eight, nine guys behind you are there to help you.”
So even if it is just a late-inning, defensive role that Boyd fills early, it could be huge considering Arizona has suffered three walk-off losses in Pac-12 play already.