Maybe Nick Storz will make his debut in an LSU uniform this weekend, maybe he will not.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said his highly regarded freshman right-hander will go through an evaluation Saturday afternoon, and if he feels right, Storz will start Sunday’s game against Hawaii.
“If he feels good we’ll start him on Sunday, and if he doesn’t feel good we’ll start (Ma’Khail) Hilliard,” Mainieri said. “I don’t want him to go out there and pitch the first time unless he feels 100 percent physically, confident, everything else. I think he’ll be honest with me.”
Storz has been chomping at the bit to get on the field.
He had surgery on a bone spur in his throwing shoulder last fall. His recovery was delayed when he strained a muscle in his back, pushing his throwing program back at least a week.
The time off has sapped some of Storz’s ability to recover. He wowed the LSU coaching staff during a bullpen last Friday, showing “Major League caliber” stuff according to Mainieri, then followed with a so-so simulated game Monday.
The initial plan, Mainieri said, was to start Storz Saturday and push Caleb Gilbert into the Sunday spot of the rotation. But the uncertainty regarding Storz’s availability scrapped that plan.
“He just felt fatigued and didn’t throw as great,” Mainieri said. “But we all felt we still wanted to do this, have him pitch this weekend. The last two days, he hasn’t rebounded the way we had hoped. He still feels fatigued.”
He still felt fatigued Thursday, and Mainieri said he would have a minor non-invasive procedure done on his shoulder to “expedite the healing.”
Storz said there was no chance he’d be less than forthright with the LSU staff about how he is feeling once Saturday rolls around.
“I want to get out there and help the team as much as I could; that was my one goal coming into my freshman year,” Storz said. “… But the last thing you want to do is get hurt going back out there.”
Hilliard will be ready to go in an extended outing regardless of what happens with Storz. Hilliard’s last two appearances have spanned four innings apiece, and Mainieri said he could have gone longer in both games.
If Storz is able to go, he will likely be limited to a maximum of two innings, Mainieri said.
Cabrera to return to starting lineup
After sitting out of the starting lineup in three of the last four games, freshman outfielder Daniel Cabrera will likely be back in the lineup Friday against Hawaii, Mainieri said.
The reason Cabrera found himself on the bench was because of his struggles against left-handed pitching — he is 0-12 with five strikeouts against left-handers this season, and LSU faced a left-handed starter in the three games Cabrera sat.
“It’s a combination of what’s best for the team and also for his self confidence,” Mainieri said. “We felt he was getting to that point where he was going to start losing a lot of confidence.”
Mainieri said his confidence has not been shaken in Cabrera being an every day player at LSU, saying the early struggles against Southpaws were “weird” and “a little bit in his head.”
Odds and ends
Storz might not be the only LSU pitcher to make his debut this weekend. Left-handed freshman John Kodros will be available for the first time … Senior catcher Nick Coomes will not play this weekend. Coomes is recovering from a concussion after taking a pitch off his catcher’s facemask against Southern earlier this week.