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Tennessee Starter AJ Russell Exits UAlbany Game With Side Soreness

Photo By Emma Corona/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball starter AJ Russell exited the Vols’ 8-5 victory over UAlbany after just three innings due to side soreness.

“Just some soreness and we’ve kind of been harping to our players to communicate with us with what’s going on. It could be anything,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said postgame. “He had some soreness in a certain part of his body. I don’t know if it was necessarily (his) arm. I kind of leave that up to those guys. Maybe it’s my mechanism. I don’t have any control of it, so I don’t want to stress until we’ve got the full word, but we got enough word to take him out of the game and give the ball off to (Chris Stamos) there.”

Russell, who dominated in a smaller role in Tennessee’s bullpen as a freshman last season, has exploded onto the scene as a sophomore and earned the Vols’ Friday night starting spot to open the season.

The 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher dominated Texas Tech in the Vols’ season opener last week, striking out 10 Red Raider batters in just 4.1 innings pitched.

More From RTI: How Tennessee Baseball Defeated UAlbany On Friday Night In Knoxville

Russell wasn’t as sharp against UAlbany and his fastball velocity was slightly down in his three innings pitched. When the sophomore came to the Vols’ training and coaching staff saying he was sore, they made the both to Chris Stamos and the bullpen.

“Started out with not as good of command as he had,” Vitello said of Russell. “Stuff was good, but command wasn’t as good and he kind of got rolling there for a minute. And then he reached a point where you know, to kind of quote him to the training staff, he was kind of reaching back and giving it all he had, and he didn’t really feel like the ball was coming out.”

Russell ended the day allowing three hits, one walk and no runs while striking out four in three innings pitched. After throwing 73 pitches (53 strikes) last week against Texas Tech, Russell threw just 54 pitches (36 strikes) against the Great Danes.

The talented right-hander did a good job working out of trouble in the series opener. He allowed a baserunner all three innings and two hits in the second inning before of getting out of trouble with a strikeout and a groundout.

“Didn’t start off as crisp, but really got in a nice rhythm there and kept it together with baserunners on, kept his composure and made some nice pitches,” Vitello said. “Off-speed might have been as good, if not better as last weekend. Just the fastball command wasn’t. Eventually the whole thing got cut short.”

Tennessee baseball returns to Lindsey Nelson Stadium at noon ET on Saturday where they’ll host UAlbany for game two of the weekend set.

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