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Arizona baseball notebook: Injuries, rotating freshmen, Golden Spikes, and more

All your Wildcat baseball news heading into the midway point of conference play.

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Cameron Cannon looks on from third base
Jason Bartel

After playing four games in five days and traveling to four different cities in that span, the Arizona Wildcats begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday against the Oregon Ducks.

But there are plenty of news things and other tidbits to get caught up on after the team’s 7-3 win over the Grand Canyon Antelopes on Tuesday.


Injuries

The biggest thing that Arizona fans are keeping an eye on right now is JC Cloney’s status. The Wildcats’ ace was removed from Friday’s game against Washington State after throwing just two pitches with what has been called “biceps discomfort”. Jay Johnson had a positive update on the lefty on Tuesday night.

“We’re not going to pitch him until he’s ready, but it’s looking way more on the positive side than not on the positive side,” Johnson told me.

Arizona did not announce any starting pitchers for the weekend as of Wednesday, so Cloney’s status is still up in the air.

Cesar Salazar also left Tuesday’s game after taking a ball to the neck while catching.

“It knocked his wind out a little bit,” Johnson explained. “And there was a left-hander that came in, and he’s been catching a lot and I’ve been trying to protect his legs, and having Ryan (Haug) allows us to do that. He’s played well the last couple times out, but it was just a nice, natural time to switch. He’s fine.”

Michael Flynn, who had not pitched for a week and a half due to a forearm injury, threw a scoreless inning on Tuesday, so that seems like a thing in the past.


The Golden JJ

After his second four-hit game of the week, and adding a double to his NCAA-leading 21 this year, JJ Matijevic was named to the Golden Spikes Midseason Watch List. Matijevic also earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors on Monday.

“It was a very humbling experience,” Matijevic said after getting Pac-12 POW. “I would never be able to do it without these teammates, without these amazing coaches, and I come out here every day trying to be better for my teammates and I owe them the world.”


Freshman Wall?

Nick Quintana has been stellar at third base this year, hitting .359 in his first 32 collegiate games. He got a mini night off on Tuesday, taking on the DH role instead of playing the field.

“It was more of Cameron Cannon is going to be a great player for us,” said Johnson. “He didn’t do anything to move himself out of the lineup, it’s more of what the other guys have done, and I felt like he needed to get another crack and another start. So it had nothing to do with that.”

“And we have to monitor the workload of some of these guys,” Johnson continued. “For Cameron and Nick, Matt Fraizer, this is the highest volume of intense games they’ve ever played and we’re only halfway through, so maybe a little managing of his mind and body as well.”

This allowed Cannon to start near his hometown of Glendale, but that wasn’t a factor.

“I never make decision based on that,” explained Johnson. “I think it’s cool, but it was time for him to get back in.”


Rivas Doing it All

Before the season started, Alfonso Rivas playing first base and pitching was a very real possibility.

Well, he doesn’t play first base anymore, and his outings on the mound have been hit and miss. But on Tuesday, Rivas started in right field over Cal Stevenson, and he made the most of it. The sophomore threw a Lopes runner out at third and made a spectacular running catch down the line to quell a GCU rally.

It’s also worth noting that Rivas has 23 walks this year in 105 at bats. Last season, he walked just 18 times in 190 ABs. This is a huge reason he’s near the top of the on-base percentage list in the country this year.


The RBI Caught Stealing

In 2016, Jay Johnson introduced Arizona fans to the two-base squeeze play. This year, he’s making everyone familiar with the two-out run-scoring caught stealing.

On multiple occasions with runners on first and third and two outs this year, the Wildcats have sent the guy at first in motion, hoping to draw a throw down to second which would let the runner at third score. It happened again in Phoenix on Tuesday, with Mitchell Morimoto taking off then retreating back to first long enough to let Arizona pick up another run.

“It’s a percentages deal,” Johnson said about this new wrinkle to the game plan. “Two outs, two strikes, and I just felt like we had the right runners on base to do something and luckily it worked out.”


Swinging Strikes

One interesting thing about Arizona’s win over GCU was that each and every one of the Lopes’ strikeouts were of the swinging variety.

“A lot of deception,” Johnson said about what that says about his pitching staff. “It means that they’re consistent with where the ball’s coming out, and they’re not seeing it quite as well, and that’s because every pitch the hitters are having to make a decision on it.”


Roons on the Call

Grand Canyon has the publicity part of D-1 athletics figured out, and another example of it was having Mike Rooney on the call for Tuesday night’s contest.

Rooney was a long-time assistant at ASU, and is also one of the top Twitter follows out there for college baseball fans.

“I love Roons, he’s great, he’s awesome,” Johnson said of his relationship with the analyst. “We talk baseball all the time. He has our perspective having coached at this level, which is great, and he’s dialed in with Perfect Game and knows a lot of prospects and knows a lot of teams throughout the country, so I always love talking to him.”


Arizona begins a three-game series with Oregon on Thursday night at 7 PM PT at Hi Corbett.