Kramer Robertson likes the baseball tossed lower, around his belly button or waist, always to the barehand side.
The junior’s had two full seasons to try other tactics, but he’s most comfortable catching flips here before he fires to first baseman Greg Deichmann for what he hopes is a 6-4-3 double play.
“He’s found the spot,” Robertson said of the teammate to whom this task most often falls, freshman Trey Dawson.
Early work is filled with double plays. Teammates linger in the dugout while Robertson, Deichmann, Dawson and third baseman Cole Freeman continue concocting chemistry, a task that began in the fall for a Tiger infield where, aside from Robertson, none of the projected starters have recorded a hit or made a start in an LSU baseball game.
Deichmann, who separated himself quickly in the fall as a starter, played in 10 games as a freshman but did not record a hit.
“I know what to expect and none of the other guys do,” Robertson said. “I’m just trying to prepare them the best I can. Try to teach them from my failures and what I’ve done well, what I haven’t done well, so they can avoid some of the things I went through and reach some of the goals I want to reach.”
Robertson’s started 74 games in his LSU career but only 12 since a freshman season when his defensive exploits, particularly a sliding catch into the bullpen against Grambling, garnered national attention.
An inconsistent offensive output provoked by undue pressure sliced Robertson’s playing time last season, a cautionary tale he’s told this new infield.
“You can’t get too high or too low here and I think in the past, being a young, 19-year-old freshman, I put too much pressure on myself,” Robertson said. “You have to play loose and relaxed and not worry necessarily about the outcome, just play it pitch to pitch.”
Dawson’s listened. The true freshman tasked with continuing a seven-year streak of stellar shortstop play doesn’t mind when questions begin with names that aren’t his, instead echoing Paul Mainieri’s hopes that he cleanly and consistently makes the standard plays.
“You should hear Alex Bregman’s name. Probably the best shortstop to come through LSU,” Dawson said. “You’ve got to have the mindset to make all the routine plays, just go out there and hustle every play. You can’t take any play off, because every play matters. You have to want the ball every time it’s pitched.”
Dawson and Freeman -- an NJCAA Gold Glover -- man an otherwise sparse left side of the infield. Freeman, who will make his first ever start at third base on Friday, is also the team’s backup shortstop, alternating with Dawson every half inning during scrimmages.
Mainieri likens the 5-foot-9 former Delgado standout to Tyler Hanover, but Freeman’s move to third hasn’t been without issues.
A career second baseman, Freeman enlisted the help of another tiny Tiger third baseman -- Christian Ibarra -- to better his footwork, reaction times and his throws across the diamond during the fall.
“He’s got some of the quickest hands I’ve ever seen,” Freeman laughed. “It’s come along a lot better than it was in the fall, I worked a lot over the break and changed my arm slot. I just realized I have to keep my arm up a lot more … (Ibarra) did a good job of helping me out and showing me what I should do on each ball and showing me I have a lot more time than I think I do.”
It’s imperative both newcomers come along. After freshman O’Neal Lochridge struggled at third, Mainieri moved him to second, leaving just one backup left-side infielder on the bench -- true freshman Chris Reid, though Robertson has high school shortstop experience.
“I’m a little bit concerned, quite frankly, with the depth on the left side of the infield,” Mainieri admitted. “(But) if you rate all of the things you should be worried about, depth on the left side of the infield probably gets down there on the list … For the most part, (the infield) has been playing pretty well and I like the way they’re coming around and they’re taking a lot of pride in their play.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter @Chandler_Rome