Alabama baseball opens its 2018 season on Friday with a three-game home series against Valparaiso. TideSports.com will look at the team this week before the season begins.

INFIELD/CATCHER | OUTFIELD | STARTING PITCHING | BULLPEN

Pitching isn’t likely to be the strength of this team. The bullpen was an issue last season, and top reliever Garrett Suchey is now gone. You can expect one or two of the players mentioned as a candidate for a starting spot to eventually fall into a relief role. Even with that, the bullpen has some question marks.

Davis Vainer is the top returning reliever. He was the closer last year. His best pitch is a curveball that helped him punch out 44 batters in 28.2 innings last season. He’ll want to be more consistent and work on his control, though, because he allowed 25 hits and 26 walks.

Brock Guffey, a late addition to the recruiting class, will be counted on. He’ll need to put some weight on and develop in the next few years but the team can’t wait for that before playing him. Expect to see him this spring.

Keep an eye on lefty Sonny Potter. He struggled early last season and was buried quickly, but was dazzling in New England Collegiate Baseball League over the summer. He pitched seven innings with an ERA of 10.29 at Alabama last spring, then threw 36.2 innings with a 2.20 ERA at the Cape. He has a fastball that tops out in the low 90s, which is more than enough to earn another chance.

Brock Love and Garret Rukes, both of whom had Tommy John surgery during last season, are available to pitch. They’re probably more likely to contribute as relievers to keep their workloads at a manageable level.

Redshirt sophomore Kyle Cameron is back after being sidelined with a medical issue for almost all of last season. He threw 24.2 innings as a freshman with a 7.66 ERA. He generally pitches to contact, keeping the ball down in the zone.

Notre Dame transfer Connor Stutts played outfield for the Irish but will probably pitch for Alabama. Junior college transfer Mason Duke will have a chance to contribute. Senior Tyler Adams memorably threw about a dozen straight curveballs in extra innings against Auburn last year. Freshman Brady Greene was among Perfect Game’s top 500 prospects in high school last year. Another transfer, Brandon Hill, will sit this season out.

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