It can always get worse, but the past week has certainly provided a bitter pill for the LSU baseball team to swallow.
On Wednesday, the Tigers learned they would be without junior designated hitter Bryce Jordan for the entire 2017 season; he needs surgery after a knee buckled while he chased a foul ball in a Tuesday scrimmage.
Two days later, their best power hitter, junior outfielder Greg Deichmann, was struck in the face by a pitch, resulting in a fractured right cheekbone.
LSU junior outfielder Greg Deichmann was struck in the face by a pitch during a Friday night…
What is not yet known is how much time Deichmann will miss. LSU announced late Sunday night that Deichmann had surgery Sunday morning and will be evaluated daily, with no decision made on his status for Friday's season opener against Air Force made until Thursday. For now, the Tigers must live in uneasy uncertainty while planning for how their lineup will look without Deichmann and Jordan.
Thank you everyone for the well wishes and prayers! I'll fight through this and be back with the team as soon as possbile— Gregory Deichmann (@Greg_D07) February 12, 2017
If there’s one thing the Tigers could not afford to lose, it was proven power bats in the middle of the order.
LSU hit 46 home runs last season — tied for sixth in the Southeastern Conference — and 39 of those belonged to players who returned this season. Deichmann and Jordan combined to hit 41 percent of those home runs (16, including 11 by Deichmann) a year ago.
If Deichmann misses significant time, it could diminish LSU’s ability to put together a big inning. Without a home run threat, the Tigers will have to rely on stringing together hits and walks along with aggressive base running.
Deichmann’s injury also could hamper an already thin outfield corps.
With Deichmann in the mix, LSU had six outfielders on the roster — and one of them, Bryce Adams, is a converted first baseman whom coach Paul Mainieri has pegged as a potential replacement for Jordan at designated hitter.
While Deichmann was a converted outfielder himself, having switched to the position this fall, his injury leaves LSU with four true outfielders on the roster: Antoine Duplantis, Beau Jordan, Brennan Breaux and freshman Zach Watson.
The one positive is that LSU should have a capable starter to slide into Deichmann’s spot in right field if he needs to miss extended time. Breaux and Beau Jordan have been battling for a starting spot in left field, and both seem to have been faring well in the competition.
Beau Jordan struggled down the stretch last season, which Mainieri attributed to him trying to be a home run hitter.
“I was trying to do something I couldn’t do: I was trying to hit the ball over the fence,” Beau Jordan said. “I’m more of a doubles guy.”
Jordan hit his fourth home run of the season April 16 against Missouri, and he was hitting .344 at the end of that series. He remained on a bit of a hot streak after that, with six hits in 14 at-bats over the following week that bumped his average to a season-high .352.
But from that point on, his average plummeted, and so did his power numbers. Over Jordan’s final 26 games, he hit .170 with no home runs, one double and nearly four times as many strikeouts (15) as RBIs (four). That's why Jordan, who started 63 games as a sophomore, found himself competing for a job this offseason. But lately, the results have been similar to those he displayed early last season.
“(Coaches) changed my approach, hitting the ball to right-center and letting the ball travel a little bit more (into the strike zone),” Jordan said. “It’s less strikeouts, because you’re letting the ball get deeper and you’re not guessing, ‘Oh, he’s going to throw a fastball.’ ”
Breaux has shown marked improvement after hitting .139 as a freshman. He has added muscle to his frame and has been “hitting the ball with authority,” Mainieri said.
With two weeks to go until the season opener, sophomore Brennan Breaux is in a two-horse rac…
If Deichmann is forced to miss time or is unable to participate defensively upon his return, LSU should still have at least three capable outfielders, though none can hit the ball out of the park like Deichmann.
Beyond them, though, all LSU has in the outfield is Adams — the converted first baseman whose defense has led him not to factor much into the mix for playing time — and Watson, a physically gifted freshman who might be a little raw for Mainieri’s taste.
Of course, this could all be moot. It’s conceivable Deichmann has to miss minimal time before returning to the batter’s box as a designated hitter with the aid of a special face mask for his helmet.
Until the Tigers have more clarity, though, they must prepare for the possibility of playing without one of their best players for a while — a possibility made more sour by the reality that they already have lost one of their better players for the season.