How bad is the injury/sick list for South Carolina right now heading into the annual SEC series against divisional rival Georgia?
Closer Joel Seddon has taken infield grounders in practice this week because a significant number of infield regulars have been sidelined with injury or illness.
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In addition to Max Schrock (back) expected to miss another series (he took some limited swings off the tee on Wednesday), Jordan Gore and DC Arendas have sat out this week's workouts (final exams on the USC campus) with upper respiratory illnesses.
Fearful the illness could spread throughout the team, Holbrook has Gore and Arendas traveling separately to Athens for the three-game series.
Hence, Seddon fielded ground balls at shortstop, a position he played in high school.
"Needless to say, we have Joel Seddon getting ready to take some ground balls because we're running out of people," Holbrook said. "If (Arendas and Gore) are too sick and they can't go, we recruited Joel to play shortstop. If you watched him take ground balls, you'd think he was one of our best guys. That's an emergency-type situation. Our players don't feel doom and gloom or snakebitten like I do. They feel like it's next man up and we're going to find a way to win anyway. We'll be OK, we'll get through it."
USC (34-11 overall, 12-9 SEC) enters the Georgia (21-22-1 overall, 7-13-1 SEC) series three games behind Florida in the Eastern Division standings with the fifth best conference mark, so every SEC game from now on is critical as far as finishing among the top four teams and earning a first round bye in the SEC Tournament later this month.
Schrock and outfielder Connor Bright will travel with the team to Athens, but their status for the series is questionable at best.
"Right now, I just can't see them playing," Holbrook said. "Max did swing the bat yesterday and hit a few balls off the tee. But when I mean swing, I don't know if I would call it a swing. He took a few passes at it, about 10 to 15 at about 50 percent. We might see if he can take BP today after the bus ride if he's not too stiff. He hasn't seen a live pitch going on three weeks now, so putting him in the lineup would be a very difficult thing for me to do."
Bright is "day to day" with an elbow injury. If he is able to endure the pain, he could play.
"It's a pain threshold type of deal," Holbrook said. "His elbow is structurally sound. There is nothing outside of irritating a nerve that he could do to further damage his elbow. If he wakes up one morning and feels good, he'll be ready to go. But he's been out a while as well. He hasn't had any practice time or batting practice or anything like that. It might take a couple of days to put him in there after he gets a clean bill of health. We're not there yet."
Even though they might not play, Holbrook wants Schrock and Bright in the dugout because of their veteran leadership.
"They're big parts of the team and they are leaders of the team," Holbrook said. "We need them to be chomping at the bit to get back in there. Again, their injuries are more of a pain threshold deal. If they can handle the pain and discomfort the injuries are giving them and play through it, they might be available. But their pain has been so difficult they haven't been afforded the opportunity to play."
Holbrook acknowledged that if USC continues to win absent Schrock and Bright from the lineup, he might hesitate to reinsert them back into the lineup when they recover from their respective injuries.
"Honestly, when we put Jordan and DC (and Gene Cone) in there, we didn't lose too much," Holbrook said. "They're both very good defenders and they can handle the bat. We might have lost a little experience, but I told Max and Connor yesterday that if we play well and can duplicate some of those Sunday games like against Alabama with that young team in there, I will be slow to take that team off the field because they're starting to get a little continuity and rhythm going. I feel very comfortable with Jordan and DC, who has been an every day player for us and he gives us flexibility to move Joey (Pankake) to the outfield."
Ironically, even though the positional players have been hammered by injuries over the past several weeks, the SEC-leading pitching staff (2.05 ERA) is virtually injury-free.
"All in all, our pitchers are healthy," Holbrook said.
-- Holbrook said Elliott Caldwell, who has a stress fracture in his lower back, won't travel with the team to Athens and could be out for the rest of the season. "He has a pretty significant injury there," Holbrook said on SportsTalk earlier this week. "We'll probably lose Elliott for the rest of the year."
-- USC worked out Thursday morning at Carolina Stadium before departing on the road trip and was scheduled for a short workout at Foley Field this afternoon in Athens, Ga.