A rare wave of icy weather forced coach Paul Mainieri to postpone LSU’s first practice, scheduled for Friday, to Saturday.
That’s the least of his problems.
Four pitchers will miss the first few practices with injuries or illness, the coach said Wednesday.
The list includes Hunter Newman, a sophomore who is expected to compete for a weekend starting job, and three freshmen: Troy Whitty, Parker Bugg and Chris Pelaez.
“We’re shorthanded,” Mainieri said Friday.
The squad canceled its yearly media day and its scheduled first practice of the 2014 season, both set for Friday, because of the wintry mix and cold temperatures. The Tigers will begin practice Saturday, and the team’s media day is now planned for Wednesday.
Mainieri walked to his vehicle Friday morning to find a thick layer of ice covering his windshield. It reminded him of his days as coach at Notre Dame – only with one difference.
“I didn’t have an ice scraper in the car like I did in South Bend (Ind.),” he said with a laugh.
LSU will open the 2014 preseason with a practice Saturday from 2-6 p.m. that’ll include a six-inning scrimmage. Practices are open to the public.
Don’t expect to see the team’s entire pitching staff. Newman and the three freshmen won’t be available and it’s unclear when any will return.
Newman, who had a 2.55 ERA in 13 appearances last season, developed a sore shoulder following his first individual throwing session this week.
“We think it’s just muscular soreness but it tends to happen often,” Mainieri said.
Whitty “tweaked” his knee while fielding balls in the outfield, and Bugg, who Mainieri said caught his eye during the fall season, has a case of mononucleosis. Pelaez is suffering from a lingering shoulder injury that began during his senior year of high school, Mainieri said.
The team had to shut down Pelaez during the fall season because of the injury. Mainieri didn’t know its extent, but said doctors will examine Pelaez soon to decide the next step – rehab or surgery.
LSU was already down two pitchers. Parkview Baptist product Russell Reynolds and freshman Jesse Stallings are both out for the season while recovering offseason surgeries.
The lack of pitchers has forced Mainieri to shorten the first few scrimmages. He’s trying to avoid throwing his healthy pitchers too much too early.
“You don’t extend the pitchers who are available,” he said. “You want to keep them on their schedule to build up their arm strength. You have to have shorter scrimmages. It allows you more time to do other things.”
LSU closed campus Friday and many roads were shut down in Baton Rouge as an overnight wintry mix blanketed the city in ice. The freezing rain and sleet were expected to continue into Friday night. The high Friday is 34 degrees.
“When I went to my car this morning, I felt like I was in South Bend in an ice storm,” said Mainieri, who coached at Notre Dame for 12 seasons, leading the Irish to nine NCAA regional appearances.
“I know the players were so excited to get started (Friday),” Mainieri said, “but you wouldn’t be able to get much done today.”
Skip Bertman Field is covered in patches of ice, Mainieri said. He expects them to melt by Saturday afternoon. The high Saturday is projected to be around 60 degrees.
LSU is ranked No. 3 in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll, the only major preseason rankings to be released yet, and shortstop Alex Bregman and ace Aaron Nola have landed on a host of preseason All-American teams.
Perfect Game, in its Southeastern Conference preview, has LSU finishing behind Mississippi State in the SEC West. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 2 in Collegiate Baseball’s poll.
LSU will practice Sunday from noon-4 p.m. ending with a four and a half-inning scrimmage. The team will be off Monday and will practice 3-5 p.m. Tuesday.
Starting at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, the team will sign autographs before the First Pitch Dinner the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The dinner begins at 7 p.m.