Wichita State outfielder Garrett Bayliff will take his return slowly this time. Going fast hasn’t worked.
Bayliff, a junior, is trying to recover from a 2011 injury that cost him most of that season and most of 2012. Three surgeries on his right ankle later, Bayliff is optimistic he will play this season. His time in individual practices with coaches and in informal workouts is encouraging.
“I’m starting to run some bases, run some doubles out,” he said. “I’m getting used to turning on it. I’m doing everything the team is doing. I’m just doing it a slower pace.”
The Shockers start full practices on Friday and their three big injury questions are moving in the right direction. Sophomore shortstop Cody Bobbit, recovering from shoulder surgery, is practicing. So is pitcher Zach Beringer, injured in a car accident in November 2011.
WSU opens the season on Feb. 15 against Pittsburgh at Eck Stadium. Stephenson carries no expectation of writing Bayliff in the lineup.
“It’s probably a stretch to think he’s going to be 100 percent by Feb. 15,” Stephenson said.
That is fine with Bayliff, who is more patient this time around. A year ago, he tried to come back and the pain in ankle forced him to quit after 21games. He had a third surgery in late August. In 2011, he played six games before fracturing his fibula and dislocated his ankle sliding into second base. When healthy, Bayliff shows hitting skill WSU needs. He hit .355 with eight doubles last season.
“We’re taking it a lot slower than we did last year,” he said. “Everybody wants to be ready for opening day, but I’d rather be able to play the whole season than just the first (21) games like I did last season.”
The pain that frustrated him last season is gone. He tried rest and injections before deciding to shut down for the spring and summer. So far, his recovery is much smoother.
“No setbacks,” he said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”
Bobbit, a transfer from Heartland (Ill.) Community College is another player who could help WSU’s offense. He played last season with a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his right (throwing) shoulder and underwent surgery on June 26.
Bobbit, who hits left-handed, hit .348 with 24 doubles and four home runs as a freshman at Heartland. He practices at full speed, taking days off in between to protect the shoulder. Stephenson expects that routine to increase to two days on and one off soon.
“It’s coming along real well,” Bobbit said. “The first game is in a month. I should be ready to go.”
Beringer, a sophomore right-hander, missed all of last season after back and knee surgery. Stephenson said Beringer, when cleared to play, will serve a suspension of undetermined length before suiting up. He was the driver in an alcohol-involved one-car wreck in 2011. Beringer has two rods and five screws in his back after surgery to repair and stabilize eight vertabrae. He tore the anterior cruciate, posterior curciate and lateral collateral cruciate ligaments and the meniscus in his left knee.
Against some steep odds, he may pitch this season.
“He looks good,” Stephenson said. “He is doing everything all the other pitchers do.”
Simpson’s situation — WSU filed a waiver request with the NCAA in an attempt to make infielder Chase Simpson eligible this season.
Simpson, a transfer from Oklahoma, came to WSU in the fall. He started 12 games and hit .250 for the Sooners in 2012. NCAA rules require transfers to sit out one season.
If the NCAA surprises him, WSU adds depth to its infield. Stephenson said he does not know how quickly the NCAA might rule on the waiver.
“At this point, we have to consider him not eligible,” he said. “We have to plan as if he’s not going to be eligible, because it would be wrong to do it any other way.”
Royals and Tigers — Tickets remain for Monday’s First Pitch Banquet at Koch Arena.
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost is the featured speaker. Former Shocker Andy Dirks, of the Detroit Tigers, will also speak. The reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7.
Tickets are $40. For information, call 316-978-3636.