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Tony Vitello Updates Injury Status Of A Handful Of Vols Ahead Of Auburn Series

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

This week is Tennessee baseball’s lone week this season without a mid week game. It couldn’t have come at a better time for a Volunteer team that’s dealing with a couple more long term injuries and a plethora of minor knicks and knacks.

Meeting with the media before the team departed for its weekend series at Auburn, Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello updated the status of a handful of injured Vols.

Third baseman Billy Amick missed Tennessee’s last four games after having an appendicitis a week and a half ago. Amick will travel with the team to Auburn but likely will not play against the Tigers.

“Billy will probably be out this weekend, but every day I’m like, ‘what are you doing dude?’ And he says, ‘I have permission to do this.’ So he’s about as ambitious as you can imagine, wanting to get back out there,” Vitello said. “He’ll travel with the team, but I don’t know that he will be active.”

Amick leaves an absence on the left side of Tennessee’s infield and there’s no shortage of options for Vitello and the Vols’ coaching staff. Tennessee could slide freshman Dean Curley to third base while starting Ariel Antigua at shortstop or could start the versatile Dalton Bargo at third base.

Vitello even mentioned the possibility of starting freshman Alex Perry, who has been hanged up and played just six games this season, at third base.

“I think Alex Perry looks really good at the plate, so anxious to see if he’s healthy enough to play. I guess that was one name we could kind of throw in there that is in limbo a little bit,” Vitello said. “I think Dalton [Bargo] is comfortable wherever you put him because of his attitude, but also because we’ve thrown him around everywhere. So, he’s got experience at each position. Ariel [Antigua] now kind of has gotten some at bats under his belt. I wish he had 50 more, but it’s not going to be the case. So, we might as well just move forward. The kid’s athletic and capable, strong enough and confident enough.

Dean [Curley] is – I was going to make a California joke, but he’s low maintenance, let’s just put it that way. I think he’s capable of playing in both spots, so it’s nice to have options.”

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Tennessee relief pitcher Andrew Behnke has been one of the Vols’ best relief pitchers this season, posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings pitched. But the left-handed reliever hasn’t pitched in nearly three weeks. Vitello provided a positive injury update on that front.

“Behnke I think is ready to come back,” Vitello said.

Then perhaps the biggest injury is the one with the smallest impact this weekend. RHP AJ Russell will be out for some time with forearm soreness. The Vols’ Opening Day starter returning this weekend was never a possibility but Vitello provided a more detailed update on his status and what a return to the mound will look like for the tall right-hander.

“We knew there’d be a gap in between when he’d be available and when not,” Vitello said. “And then also kind of like when things started, it’s soreness and strain in certain areas and those sore and strain are two very vague terms, but that’s what he’s dealing with. I think you gotta take into account what are we trying to do this year, but more importantly for AJ Russell’s career

“There’ll be a gap between when he starts ramping things up again and then of course a sequence of events will have to happen when he’s out there.”

Tennessee baseball (24-5, 5-4 SEC) opens its three-game weekend series at Auburn (17-11, 1-8 SEC) at 7 p.m. ET on Friday night. The SEC Network+ will stream the game.

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