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Meyer to return in time for postseason push

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BSB 08_09 UK_Vandy Game 3 web 02.jpgThis wasn't how Alex Meyer envisioned his sophomore season.

Wrapped up under covers, bedside, with his radio dialed into the Big Blue Sports Network, much like he did when he was a little kid growing up watching the big leagues, Meyer listened from a distance as the Kentucky baseball team fought for its postseason life.

Weekend by weekend, with a depleted bullpen and lack of an ace arm, Meyer listened as his team fell from in the thick of the Southeastern Conference Tournament race to the outside looking in.

With three weeks left in the regular season and his team two games back of the eighth and final spot in the league tournament, Meyer, like a knight in shining armor, is set to return from a four-week battle with mononucleosis.

Meyer is slated to take the ball Sunday as UK's starter.

"I'm really happy to be able to come back, especially in the situation we're in where we need to be winning," Meyer said. "I guess I came back at the right time. Maybe it could have been a week earlier or two. I'm excited to be back and hopefully get us on the right track."

Meyer, arguably the top prospect to ever sign with Kentucky, last pitched against Alabama on April 10 in a three-run, five-inning outing.

Mononucleosis, a common viral illness that can leave a person extremely tired and fatigued, can last for weeks and sometimes even months. Meyer admitted Thursday that he isn't back to 100 percent, but Meyer and the UK training staff deemed him fit enough to pitch in a pivotal three-game series against SEC East foe South Carolina this weekend.

"I feel good," Meyer said. "I'm not at 100 percent, obviously. I'm out of shape. I haven't been able to run or lift weights while I've been out, so I feel kind of weak. I was talking to coach (Gary) Henderson and he doesn't think it's going to take long to get it back because I was in pretty good shape before I got sick."

Meyer struggled with consistency when he was healthy, going 4-2 with a bloated 7.30 ERA, but there is no doubt UK is a better team when he is in the starting rotation. Meyer's fastball has been clocked as high as 100 miles per hour and just about every scout one could talk to believes Meyer is a surefire future first-round draft pick.

Meyer provides some much-needed depth to a pitching rotation that has been patched together by freshman arms and a reliever-turned-starter, junior Logan Darnell, who has been forced into the ace role in the wake of Meyer's absence and the James Paxton decision.

If anything, the Cats are fortunate to even be alive this late in the year with a makeshift rotation, but freshmen Taylor Rogers and Jordan Cooper have pitched valiantly.

Meyer said the bout with mono had no previous affect on his struggles before the Alabama series. The first time he showed symptoms was in practice the week before his Alabama outing. After being incorrectly diagnosed with strep throat, Meyer was sent home after his Sunday start with fatigue and told to see a doctor. By that Tuesday, he was diagnosed with mononucleosis and was told he would miss the next three to four weeks.

Because he's only practiced a few times -- once last week, once Wednesday and one scheduled for Thursday -- Meyer imagines he will have a pitch count, although he doesn't know what it will be. His only objective in his first start in nearly a month is to keep the ball down and last as long as he can.

An overworked and tired pitching staff could certainly use the help. More importantly, so could a team fighting for its postseason life.

"It's probably been two weeks ago after the Alabama series where everybody thought we were fine," Meyer said. "Everybody was relaxed and thought we were pretty much in at that time. Now we're at the point where we can't afford to lose too many more games. We still have the right mindset. We still think that we have a great shot and we're a good team. We have a great shot to make the postseason still. We need to just turn the notch up a bit and get some more wins."

Rogers will get the start Friday followed by Cooper on Saturday and Meyer on Sunday. Darnell, previously a weekend starter, will be available out of the bullpen.

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