Injured LSU reliever Hunter Newman appears to be on track to compete in LSU’s series against Texas A&M, roughly two weeks after it was revealed he had suffered a back injury.
“Hunter threw well today,” coach Paul Mainieri said before a Wednesday practice. “It went well today, about as positive as it possibly could’ve gone. We’ll see how he feels (Thursday). If he feels good, no setbacks, then he’ll be on the active roster for this week.”
Sophomore right-hander Caleb Gilbert has filled in admirably since Newman’s injury, successfully closing out three of LSU’s four Southeastern Conference wins, striking out six while allowing two runs in five innings.
Mainieri did not have an answer as to whether Newman would return to his role as the team’s closer whenever he was available to pitch.
“I don’t know the answer to that question right now,” Mainieri said. “I don’t even know when he’ll be ready to pitch.”
Beyond the good feeling that comes with an experienced bullpen arm returning, LSU could likely use Newman this weekend.
Mainieri said Wednesday that freshman right-hander Zack Hess would not be on the active roster against A&M after he threw 87 pitches against Tulane on Tuesday night.
Newman has not pitched since March 12 when he logged a scoreless inning against Wichita State, which he did while dealing with his back injury.
Loose lips sink ships
LSU made a change in its outfield defense Tuesday, with Antoine Duplantis starting in center field and Zach Watson starting in left field.
Duplantis was LSU’s starting center fielder in 12 of the first 13 games, but shifted to left field for the start of the Wichita State series to make room for Watson.
After Tuesday’s game, Mainieri said that original shift with Duplantis going to left field was made because the sophomore was dealing with a sore arm, a fact he didn’t divulge until Tuesday.
He offered a reason for why he kept Duplantis’ sore arm under wraps.
“I don’t mean to keep stuff from you guys, but sometimes I answer questions too frankly and it provides a scouting report for the other team,” Mainieri said. “Sometimes it might be a slight groin tweak or a sore arm, or something like that where maybe they can take advantage of those things.
“Sometimes there’s reasons that I just can’t divulge why a slight move might be made.”
No problem with aggressiveness
The second run Tulane scored against LSU on Tuesday came when, with runners at the corners and one out, shortstop Kramer Robertson opted to throw home on a ground ball. The throw sailed a bit wide and the run scored easily.
Mainieri said he had not yet spoken with Robertson about the play specifically, but added he did not have a problem with it.
“I’ve got no qualms with him having the confidence in making that judgment,” Mainieri said. “It didn’t work out, but had he been thrown out everybody would’ve said, ‘Oh my gosh, that was a major-league play.’
“I’m not going to second-guess kids when they make those judgments. He knew what he was doing, he thought he had a chance, I’m all behind him.”
A tight series
This will be the fifth time LSU and Texas A&M have faced off on the diamond since the Aggies joined the SEC, and if it follows the historical script, this series will likely feature a couple nail-biters.
The series is tied 6-6 since the Aggies joined the league for the 2013 season, and seven of those 12 games have been decided by one run.
Only one game in the series’ recent history has been decided by more than three runs — the series opener last season, which LSU lost 6-1.