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Tennessee RHP AJ Russell ‘Likely’ Shut Down For Remainder Of The Season

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee sophomore pitcher AJ Russell will be inactive for this weekend’s Knoxville Super Regional against Evansville and likely won’t return to the mound this season.

“He’ll be unavailable,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said on Wednesday. “We’ll see where we get but more than likely would be shut down for the year.”

Russell has been unavailable for most of the season. He missed three weeks early in the season with side soreness before returning for two weeks and dealing with forearm tightness that sidelined him for the better part of two months.

The right-handed pitcher returned to the mound in a pair of one inning outings at the SEC Tournament. Russell worked around a pair of baserunners to post a scoreless inning against Vanderbilt before allowing a solo home run in an inning against LSU.

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While the results were solid, Russell’s velocity was way down. After throwing in the upper 90s earlier this season, Russell’s fastball was 91-93 mph in Hoover. After returning to Knoxville, Russell was dealing with soreness in his throwing arm and was inactive last weekend for the Knoxville Regional.

“It’s kind of Coach Russell or Coach AJ for now kind of as Billy did for a couple weeks there,” Vitello said. “And I don’t mean make light of health or anything like that. I mean he’s still involved in practice and things like that right now, but he’s kind of assumed a role in the dugout where he takes on some other duties and to me I enjoy being around him.”

What’s next for Russell to fully recover is not clear whether it be surgery or full rest. For now, he’ll embrace his new role as an additional coach in the dugout as the Vols’ season keeps marching on.

Russell’s original injury looked debilitating to Tennessee’s staff at the time it occurred. However, Frank Anderson’s staff has made serious improvements over the course of the season thanks to a number of pitchers including AJ Causey and Aaron Combs.

Tennessee opens up play in the Knoxville Super Regional at 3 p.m. ET on Friday afternoon. ESPN2 is broadcasting the game.

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