Coach Paul Mainieri has settled on his starting pitching rotation – well, kind of.
For part of the none-conference slate, the LSU baseball coach has decided upon how he’ll use three starting pitchers battling for the two weekend spots behind ace Aaron Nola.
Nola, set to be LSU’s Friday night starter, will indeed start the opener against New Orleans on Friday at Alex Box Stadium, a game that is standing-room only.
Kyle Bouman, a junior college transfer from Missouri, will start Saturday against New Orleans at Zephyr Field, and true freshman Jared Poché will start against Grambling on Sunday at Alex Box.
Junior Cody Glenn – in the mix with Bouman and Poché for the two weekend spots – will start the Wednesday game, Feb. 19, at Southeastern Louisiana.
Mainieri plans to continue this rotation – Nola, Bouman, Poché and Glenn at midweek – for the first two and a half weeks of the four-week non-conference slate.
Poché will start the midweek game at Northwestern State to give all three competitors a start away from Alex Box. At that point, Mainieri will “probably” decide upon his weekend starting rotation for Southeastern Conference play, he said.
LSU’s final weekend non-conference series is against Purdue the following Friday-Sunday, March 7-9.
“So I think when we play against Purdue, whatever rotation you see that weekend will be the rotation we’ll go to Vandy with,” said Mainieri, whose team opens SEC play in Nashville March 14.
In the bullpen, Mainieri said the battle to be LSU’s top reliever and/or closer is still waging.
The coach mentioned several players when discussing the roles, including junior Joe Broussard, senior Kurt McCune, junior college transfer Brady Domanque, freshmen Parker Bugg and Alden Cartwright and senior Nate Fury.
Bugg, the only 2014 signee who was drafted out of high school, has recovered from a bout of mononucleosis and was “dominant” in two innings Wednesday, Mainieri said.
The role of closer and LSU’s top relievers won’t be defined until several weeks into the season.
Jared Foster and Mark Laird are swapping positions.
Foster is moving from left to right field and Laird, the original right fielder, will play left.
Foster, a junior from Lake Charles who began his LSU career as the football team’s backup quarterback, is now expected to be an everyday starter, Mainieri said.
“I’m going to give him a shot to be the everyday right fielder,” the coach said. “He’s really emerged.”
So why did the coach swap the two? The sun, he said.
“Right field is a very, very tough sun field. And so I know when you look at a prototypical right fielder you want to have the strongest arm out there and those type of things, but in a short season of 56 games, I don’t think it plays as often as it does in professional baseball,” he said. “What’s more important to me is having somebody that can handle the sun and be steady and make the catches you need to make. Because I wasn’t sure Foster was going to be an everyday guy, I wanted to go with a guy I knew was going to go play everyday.
“Now, I’ve kind of decided to go with Foster on an everyday basis.”
Foster’s position as an everyday starter is “not etched in stone,” the coach said. “He’s got to go out and do it.”
Catcher “a dead heat”
The three-way battle for LSU’s starting catcher spot is a “dead heat,” Mainieri said.
Tyler Moore, Chris Chinea and Kade Scivicque are competing for both the catcher spot and first base, where Ty Ross and Mason Katz left voids upon their departures. Whoever doesn’t catch will play first, the coach said.
Scivicque, No. 3 of the three entering preseason camp, has done well enough over the first two weeks of practice for Mainieri to say that competition is even.
All three players will likely see time at first base and catcher over the opening weekend and beyond.
“Each guy may end up playing two of the three games between catcher and first place,” Mainieri said, “see how they play out for a while and see how they do in the bright lights.”
Zardon on the move
Freshman Danny Zardon is moving from second to third base, Mainieri said, and the coach envisions the Florida native as a possible “heir apparent” to third baseman Christian Ibarra.
Zardon had been challenging junior college transfer Conner Hale for the starting gig at second base. Another freshman, Kramer Robertson, is Hale’s backup.
Zardon’s move to third may not be permanent. Mainieri wants to work him into the lineup this season.
“I don’t want to pigeonhole him into third base.,” the coach said. “I see him as the heir apparent to Ibarra over there, but I don’t want to close out the possibility at second base. It might be a chance to get him into game.”
Mainieri said Hale, who played first base in the fall, is “doing a good job” at second base, though he doesn’t possess the range of JaCoby Jones, last year’s starter there.