LSU coach Paul Mainieri has seen enough to make a decision: Freshman right-hander Eric Walker will begin the season in the weekend rotation, and fellow freshman Zack Hess will start mideek games, the coach said Wednesday.
"It’s pretty much what I expected to happen," Mainieri said. "Neither of them have done anything to discourage me from that plan. I think both of them have a chance to be outstanding."
Mainieri also reiterated the stance he took at LSU's Jan. 27 media day: The first three weeks will serve as a sort of audition for how the Tigers will proceed once Southeastern Conference play starts.
"What we’ll do is, after about three weeks, we’ll kind of re-evaluate it and see who are we best starting Sunday? And the other guy, are we best continuing him as a midweek starter, or are we best putting him in the bullpen?" Mainieri said. "We won’t know that answer until four weeks from now, because I have to see what our bullpen looks like.
"If I’m confident enough in the depth of our bullpen, I’d love to leave the other guy starting in the middle of the week to continue to get him that starting experience. But the weekend games are of utmost importance, and you have to make sure you have your options there to give you the best chance to win on the weekend."
Walker said he was not surprised by the news, it was something that had sort of been the unofficial plan all spring.
Now that he's officially plugged in to start against the Air Force Academy on Feb. 19, Walker said he's excited, but also not overwhelmed by the moment.
"It's something you've got to approach with the mindset to go out and win a game," Walker said. "I think that's something I'm ready for."
That mentality might explain why Walker is getting the first crack at making the weekend rotation.
Though he doesn't possess a big fastball and is undersized compared to most of the rest of LSU's staff at 6-foot and 172 pounds, Walker has impressed Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn with his advanced approach on the mound.
"He’s a consummate pitcher," Mainieri said. "He knows how to pitch both sides of the plate; he can change speeds; he throws three pitches for strikes. He’s a very poised guy."
Hess is a contrast in style. He's 6-foot-6 with a power fastball and a fiery demeanor. He'll get his first start on the road against the University of New Orleans.
"(Hess) is all arms and legs," Mainieri said. "He’s going to throw every fastball between 91 and 95 miles an hour. He’s got a knockout slider. His pitchability is still a work in progress, and he’s a very emotional competitor out there on the mound, whereas Eric is more calm, a cool customer.
"They’re both equally effective. They’re just different styles of pitchers."
Junior right-hander Alex Lange will open the season as the Friday night starter, with senior left-hander Jared Poché starting on Saturday.
CST TO CARRY THREE LSU BASEBALL GAMES
Cox Sports Television released its lineup of baseball and softball games Wednesday, and the network will carry three LSU baseball games.
CST will broadcast LSU's road contests against UNO (Feb. 19) and McNeese State (March 8), as well as the Tigers' neutral site game against Louisiana-Lafayette (April 11) in the Wally Pontiff Classic at Zephyr Field.
LSU will announce its full set of uniforms for the 2017 season at 9 a.m. Thursday.
In a tweet the official LSU baseball account shared Wednesday morning, the school will unveil eight uniform combinations "to showcase the program's 124-year history."