Jake Fraley’s hamstring injury isn’t as bad as LSU’s staff first thought, and the starting left fielder could return as soon as this weekend, coach Paul Mainieri said Monday.
Fraley, who strained the hamstring in Sunday’s loss to Kentucky, will not play when LSU (23-5) meets Louisiana-Lafayette (15-10) on Tuesday at Zephyr Field in the annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic. He will travel with the team to Alabama for the Tigers’ series against the Crimson Tide, which begins Thursday.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as we feared,” Mainieri said. “We think by the weekend he could be 80 to 90 percent.”
LSU, 5-4 in the Southeastern Conference, begins a three-game series against the Tide (14-12, 4-5) on Thursday in Hoover. Alabama is playing its home games at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium — home to the SEC baseball tournament — while its on-campus stadium undergoes renovations.
Fraley is likely to miss the series opener Thursday, but coaches are hopeful he’ll return Friday or Saturday. His absence creates a void — either at designated hitter or second base. Second baseman Jared Foster could shift to left, or Mainieri could move Chris Sciambra from DH to left.
The coach said he has not made those decisions.
Either way, Fraley, one of LSU’s fastest players and a player who recently returned to the leadoff spot, could be back quicker than first thought. Fraley clutched his right hamstring in obvious pain while running from first to second base during Sunday’s 12-10 loss to Kentucky.
Mainieri said the hamstring was “a little tight” Monday, but the coach could, at the least, use Fraley as a designated hitter or pinch-hitter over the weekend, he said.
Freshman Alex Lange will continue to be LSU’s No. 2 starting pitcher, and the reason is Aaron Nola.
Well, kind of. LSU’s weekend rotation will remain the same for this week’s series against Alabama. Sophomore Jared Poché (5-1, 3.48 ERA), Lange (5-0, 1.20) and freshman Jake Godfrey (5-0, 3.21) will pitch in that order.
Despite his better numbers, Lange will remain the No. 2 pitcher, and Mainieri cited former ace Nola when discussing the hard-throwing Lange, who leads the SEC in ERA. Nola was LSU’s No. 2 or 3 as a rookie.
“I think Alex Lange is phenomenal. I love the kid, and I think he’s going to be one of the greats, but would Aaron Nola be Aaron Nola as a freshman if he were pitching on Friday nights?” the coach said. “Sometimes you’ve got to let a guy grow into that role. I’m not saying he won’t pitch on Friday nights before the season is over. I don’t know. But I’d hate to put so much on a kid’s plate that you don’t get what you’re getting out of him now. He’s obviously a Friday night talent in this league.”
No. 4 tryouts
Senior Kyle Bouman and sophomore Russell Reynolds have another shot at securing LSU’s No. 4 starting role.
The two will throw back-to-back in Tuesday’s game against the Cajuns, Mainieri said. Bouman will start, and Reynolds will follow.
“I’m not sure how far one of them will go,” Mainieri said. “The game itself will dictate it. I actually hope they both pitch extended outings based upon how tired our bullpen from this past weekend.”
LSU (23-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (15-10)
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Zephyr Field, Metairie
Rankings: LSU is ranked in the top five, and as high as No. 2, in all six major polls. UL-Lafayette is not ranked.
Projected starting pitchers: LSU Sr. RHP Kyle Bouman (0-1, 8.31) vs. UL-Lafayette So. LHP Connor Toups (1-1, 1.00)
Radio: WDGL-FM, 98.1 (Baton Rouge); KLWB-FM, 103.7, and KPEL-AM, 1420 (Lafayette); WWL-AM, 870, and WWL-FM, 105.3 (New Orleans)
In-game updates: @DellengerAdv
What to watch: The Tigers continue to test a handful of pitchers for the No. 4 starting role. Bouman gets his second shot. He struck out a career-high seven batters in four innings against Stephen F. Austin.
Know your opponent: The Cajuns have an RPI of 58. They lost a host of guys from last year’s super regional squad, but they’ve only lost two series and took two of three from Alabama, LSU’s opponent this coming weekend.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.