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February 10, 2014

Welton ready for return

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The road back to recovery has been a long one for Georgia right fielder Conor Welton, who returns to the field for Friday's Opening Day against Georgia Southern after missing all of last year with torn labrums in each of his shoulders.

It's been an arduous journey back.

"Last year was frustrating, especially when we were having a bad season but it gave me a fresh start, time to get back," Welton said before practice Monday. "I'm excited about this year."

Now doubt the Bulldogs are glad to have him back.

The son of former Bulldog safety Chris Welton, Conor Welton battled .291 with 15 RBI as a sophomore in 2012, a season that included starts in 49 of Georgia's 56 games.

But following an MRI after the season, tears were discovered in both shoulders resulting in surgeries Oct. and Dec. that same year.

"It was definitely a different experience for me, sitting out a year and a half," he said. "But I was actually able to come back pretty quick; I felt pretty comfortable."

The same can be said for his adjustment to new skipper Scott Stricklin, whose willingness to give all his players a fresh start has impressed Welton.

"It's been good," Welton said. "He's definitely brought some new ideas to the program and all that. I'm learning new things every day."

Learning to complete is one of the lessons Welton says has been learned.

He's not just talking baseball, either.

"We compete every day. You compete in the little things then you'll compete in the big things," he said. "Whether it's the weight room we compete there all the time. Obviously, we haven't played a game yet but I definitely think all the things we've been doing will help us be more competitive.

First pitch Friday against the Eagles is set for 5 p.m.

"I think we have a shot to be pretty good," Welton said. "We've had good players, we've just got to make plays and do the little things right. If we can do that, I think we can be pretty successful and surprise some people."

NOTES: Stricklin announced Monday that freshman shortstop Mike Bell will miss the first two weeks of the season while recovering from a broken hand. He will be replaced at short by junior Nelson Ward, who will make his first career start at the position after making 54 starts at second. Junior transfer Cody McCance will open at second. Freshman Stephen Wrenn - a 28th-round pick by the Atlanta Braves - will start in center field and bat leadoff. Sophomore right-hander Sean McLaughlin (5-6, 3.28 in 2013) will start Friday's opener against Georgia Southern with newcomer Ryan Lawlor making his Bulldog debut on Saturday with senior Patrick Boling (3-7, 4:17) getting the start in Sunday's finale. First pitch on Saturday and Sunday are both set for 1 p.m.

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