Alex Lange received the news Tuesday afternoon.
After the freshman right-hander threw a bullpen session to test his right elbow, LSU coach Paul Mainieri informed the Missouri native of his plans: Lange would move up to the Friday night role, pushing sophomore left-hander Jared Poché into the Saturday spot.
“(Mainieri) just said, ‘Are you comfortable doing it?’ I said, ‘Yes sir,’ ” Lange said. “That was pretty much it.”
The rookie is expected to throw no more than 80 pitches or six innings in the series opener at Georgia after missing the previous weekend against Auburn with “elbow tightness.”
For Lange, the only thing that changes is the day of the week.
“We’re not really worried about who’s Friday, who’s Saturday, who’s Sunday,” Lange said. “We just go out there and try to give our team a chance to win.”
Mainieri said he figured his rookie would eventually find his way into the No. 1 role, and he planned to make the switch last weekend against Auburn before Lange’s elbow flared up. Lange has baffled opposing hitters since making his debut Feb. 14 against Kansas, compiling a 1.39 ERA and 61 strikeouts in eight starts.
The freshman has held opposing hitters to a .208 batting average. He ranks No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference in ERA and No. 4 in strikeouts.
“Alex Lange is the most dominating power pitcher on our staff,” Mainieri said. “Lange has that potential of a (Kevin) Gausman or an (Aaron) Nola to just go out there and dominate a game with a lot of strikeouts.”
Poché has made 17 appearances in his LSU career. Every time he’s taken the mound, though, he’s done so as the Tigers’ starting pitcher.
That could change Friday evening.
Mainieri said he could use the sophomore out of the bullpen against Georgia, noting Poché could work as the team’s closer in a save situation. Mainieri said he wanted to add an extra arm to the bullpen while also saving redshirt freshman closer Jesse Stallings for the remaining two games in the series.
“I’ve never closed before, and I might get an opportunity to do that on Friday night,” Poché said. “I think that would be pretty cool. It would be a pretty good adrenaline rush.”
If Poché pitches Friday, his weekend start will be bumped back to Sunday afternoon, pushing freshman right-hander Austin Bain into the Saturday slot. Regardless of when Poché takes the mound, LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn said he’s confident in his left-hander’s ability to perform at a moment’s notice.
“He’s prepared to go right now,” Dunn said. “His work has been done all week in preparation to pitch, whether he’s pitching possibly out of the pen on Friday night or pitching on Saturday or Sunday. He’s ready to go.”
LSU’s travel roster will look a bit different when the Tigers play in Athens, Georgia.
Mainieri is allowed to only bring 27 players on road series, leaving six players home. Seniors Kyle Bouman and Brady Domangue, sophomore infielder Danny Zardon and freshmen Greg Deichmann, Jake Latz and Ryan May all remained in Baton Rouge. Zardon was taken off the travel roster because Mainieri wanted to add an extra arm to his bullpen.
“We took an extra pitcher on this trip just out of concern that if something were to happen with Lange ... then we have enough arms to get through the weekend,” Mainieri said.