LINCOLN — Nebraska’s top starting pitcher will miss opening day for the second straight year, and it’s once again unclear when he’ll be healthy enough to return.
Junior left-hander Kyle Kubat is battling the same arm injury that sidelined him until April last season, coach Darin Erstad announced Tuesday.
He won’t make the trip to Arizona, where Nebraska opens its season against Pacific on Friday. The plans are for Kubat to be evaluated weekly, Erstad said.
“We’re going to be ultra-safe with him,” Erstad said Tuesday. “He’s gone through similar stuff last year. We’re going to be patient with him and not force the issue.”
Senior Christian DeLeon, who earned the Friday starter role last year, will take the mound for the Huskers’ first game, Erstad said. Nebraska plans to start junior lefty Aaron Bummer against No. 2 Oregon State on Saturday. Junior college transfer Chance Sinclair will throw against Gonzaga in NU’s second game Saturday.
“We’ve created depth on the mound,” Erstad said. “We’re in a position where we have some guys that are capable of going out there and getting outs for us.”
Erstad also announced Tuesday that junior right fielder Austin Darby won’t play in the opener because of an NCAA rule adopted last year that mandates a one-game suspension for players who are ejected. Darby was tossed from Nebraska’s Big Ten title game loss against Indiana, the final game of NU’s 2013 season.
Without Darby, Erstad said, freshman center fielder Ryan Boldt from Red Wing, Minn., will hit in the leadoff spot. Junior college transfer Christian Cox is expected to start in right field.
As they are this season, NU coaches took a cautious approach with Kubat last year. He was limited early in the season. His first start didn’t come until April 16 against Arkansas, when Kubat threw five scoreless innings in a combined no-hitter.
He finished the year strong before pitching in the Cape Cod League over the summer. He didn’t throw last fall.
The former Creighton Prep standout is 10-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 16 career starts as a Husker, most of that success coming in moments of heightened intensity late in those seasons.
But he’s still working to increase his sustainable pitch count.