Jake Latz won’t pitch this season after all.
LSU team officials determined that the highly touted freshman left-hander will miss his rookie season with a stress reaction in his throwing elbow.
Latz, one of many sought-after pitchers in LSU’s 2014 signing class, developed the injury during preseason practice while competing to be one of the Tigers’ weekend starters. He’s never fully recovered and won’t be back in time to pitch this year, coach Paul Mainieri announced Monday.
Mainieri hopes Latz can pitch, at least some, in summer ball and then join the team for fall practice. Latz missed some of fall ball last year with the same lingering issue.
“If you would have told me four months ago that this was going to be the result, I would have been shocked,” Mainieri said. “I really feel the injury he had — I’ve had some experience with it — is not an injury that requires surgery, not a significant injury. Just needs a little rest and, boom, you’re ready to go.”
Latz was shut down for several weeks before beginning a six-week throwing program in early March, but he suffered setbacks during the program. He threw his first bullpen since February about a week and a half ago, and Mainieri hoped the pitcher could throw against UNO next Tuesday — Latz’s last opportunity to throw this year before ruling him out.
“Most everything is positive,” Maineri said of Latz’s current arm situation. “He’s just not going to be ready to pitch. That decision has been made now. It’s not going to be quickly enough. He’s clearly not ready to pitch against UNO.”
Mainieri won’t redshirt or apply for a medical redshirt for Latz because he doesn’t expect the pitcher to be in school for five years. Latz is eligible for the draft after his third year of college and every year after that. He turned down about $900,000 during the draft last June to come to school.
Latz may have been the most highly touted of any of the Tigers’ 2014 signees, excluding Mac Marshall, who left the program in September, dropping out of school to attend a junior college. Junior-college players are eligible for the draft after their first season.
Down Latz and Marshall, Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn find themselves in a less comfortable situation this season than they would be with them.
“Obviously it would make you a much stronger team,” Mainieri said. “We don’t have a minor-league system we can dip into. You lose two guys like Mac and Jake with the amount of scholarship money you dedicated to those guys, and they contribute zero to your team, it’s bound to affect your team to some degree.”
LSU (40-8, 16-7 Southeastern Conference) is closing in on securing a top-eight national seed for the NCAA tournament, but Mainieri doesn’t plan on resting any of his players or pitchers any time soon.
“The only way I’d rest anybody is if when went into the last game at South Carolina if we couldn’t achieve anymore and we couldn’t hurt ourselves anymore,” the coach said.
A top-eight seed isn’t Mainieri’s only concern. He wants to win the SEC West, and LSU and Texas A&M (41-7, 16-7) are tied at the top of the division with two three-game series remaining.
“I can’t imagine anything happening before the last game (of the regular season at South Carolina,” Mainieri said. “We might have to win all six games, the way Texas A&M has been playing, for us to still win.”
A&M hosts South Carolina (27-21, 10-14) and travels to Ole Miss (25-24, 11-13) to finish the year. Vanderbilt, which leads the overall standings by a half-game over A&M and LSU, finishes by hosting Florida (35-13, 15-9) this week and playing at Alabama (23-24, 8-16).
Stevenson on schedule
Center fielder Andrew Stevenson is “progressing” toward a return Friday from a hamstring injury, Mainieri said Monday.
Stevenson, the speedy outfielder with the team’s third-best average, missed the Tigers’ series finale against Mississippi State with the injury he suffered Friday. Mainieri is hopeful the junior can return for the series opener against Missouri.
“He’s progressing already to be able to go for Friday,” Mainieri said.
Mainieri said five LSU players are graduating next week: Zac Person, Kyle Bouman, Jared Foster, Kade Scivicque and Chris Sciambra. … The Tigers won’t practice as a full squad this week until likely Thursday, Mainieri said. It’s final exam week. LSU does not play a midweek game, and players are spending much of the time studying.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.