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

Alabama announced its rotation for the first series of the season on Monday on Twitter:

Friday – Jr. RHP Sam Finnerty
Saturday – Sr. RHP Jake Walters
Sunday – TBA

Sam Finnerty is a new addition to the starting rotation. He played outfield and helped as a reliever in his first two seasons. Slotting him on Friday night is a strong indication that pitching will be his primary job this year.

Jake Walters is the most experienced pitcher on the roster. He’d likely start on the weekend for every team in the SEC. His fastball reaches the mid-90s but his best pitch might be a cutter. He has 149 strikeouts in 156.2 innings over the last two seasons. He posted a 2.67 ERA as a sophomore, including 1.93 in SEC play. That rose to 3.98 as a junior last season.

The battle for the third spot is probably between junior LHP Dylan Duarte and sophomore RHP Deacon Medders, but Medders is suspended for the first series of the season. Duarte was the Sunday starter for most of last season but struggled, going 2-6 with a 5.69 ERA. In nine SEC starts, he averaged less than five innings per outing and gave up 36 earned runs in 42 1/3 innings pitched. He doesn’t have great velocity but mixes pitches well and his breaking stuff can be hard to spot.

Medders’ numbers were better, with a 4.38 ERA and a 2-1 record, but he pitched mostly in relief and in midweek games. He played a bigger role as the season went along. Duarte and Medders are the best bets to begin the season as the No. 3 starter, but it’s also possible the coaching staff could deploy one on Friday or Saturday in a long relief role to seal a win.

It’s also possible both players will get a shot as a starter until one shows the job is his. Whichever one isn’t used on the weekend may fall into a role as a midweek starter.

Among new players, Sam Gardner might be the best bet to contribute in the starting rotation. He was 9-0 with a 2.00 ERA in junior college last season.

Other players with starting experience on the roster are RHP Brock Love and RHP Garret Rukes. Both players suffered midseason UCL injuries and had Tommy John surgery. They’re on pace to pitch but both will probably be monitored closely. They can help this season but probably will be handled carefully.

Pitching depth isn’t a forte for the roster, so it’s likely that the third, fourth and fifth starters will be juggled heavily throughout the season.

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