Jake Latz’s much-anticipated LSU debut looks to be in peril again.
Latz, who missed all of last season with a stress reaction in his throwing elbow, suffered a setback last week and has been told by two doctors he needs surgery, LSU coach Paul Mainieri told The Advocate on Monday.
Latz, a sophomore, will see a third doctor in Detroit on Tuesday for a third opinion, Mainieri said. After that meeting, Mainieri said, a course of action will be decided upon among Latz, his father and the LSU team doctors. Latz has already seen orthopedic surgeons in Baton Rouge and Chicago.
Mainieri said Latz had been pain-free and throwing exceptionally well throughout fall practice until a four-inning outing last week. Mainieri said Latz “didn’t feel right” in the fourth inning of that outing, prompting LSU trainers to send him in for another MRI.
“This time, the MRI showed there might be something that’s more closer to a stress fracture than it showed before,” Mainieri said.
The surgery, as Mainieri described it, would insert a screw into the bone where the stress fracture is located with about a four-to-six month rehab, leaving a glimmer of hope that Latz could return for the Tigers at the end of the spring.
Mainieri also said Latz is still scheduled to pitch in the prestigious Cape Cod summer league next summer.
“It’s very disappointing for him and for us as well,” Mainieri said. “I hate to speculate, because we don’t even know if he’s going to have the surgery, we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. But if the decision is to have the surgery — and that’s what all the doctors recommend — the sooner he has it, the better because he could be back in time to help us toward the end of the year.”
Drafted in the 11th round by the Blue Jays in 2014, Latz enrolled in LSU — the third-highest drafted high school player from that draft not to sign. He developed the stress reaction in his elbow during fall practice last season and was shut down in early May after attempts to rehabilitate the injury ended in setbacks.
Latz had drawn rave reviews from the LSU coaches for his work in the fall, positioning himself nicely to compete for a weekend rotation slot after his 10 strong fall innings. The 11th, though, was when the setback occurred.
Mainieri’s armed with a much deeper staff than last season — when both Latz’s injury and Mac Marshall’s abrupt departure were devastating blows — and maintained Latz’s injury isn’t unconquerable. Austin Bain continues to progress after undergoing surgery to shave bone spurs in his right arm and is set to be back in January.
That, along with the emergence of newcomers like Riley Smith and Caleb Gilbert in the fall to mesh with veterans Jared Poche and Alex Lange, have Mainieri more concerned for the 2014 Illinois Player of the Year who’s yet to throw a collegiate pitch.
“We’ll be OK,” Mainieri said. “I feel like our staff is going to be deeper than it was last year, but when we recruited Jake Latz, he was really one of the shining guys in our recruiting class, one of the guys we felt had a chance to be extremely special. If he’s going to be out for a prolonged period of time, it would obviously be disappointing to us, but it’s not insurmountable to our team. I really feel worse for Jake.”