Following a Monday meeting in Paul Mainieri’s office, Kramer Robertson returned to his phone with a text message from the man he’s now primed to replace.
“You’re ready for this,” Alex Bregman wrote to the new LSU shortstop.
Robertson will become the Tigers’ third shortstop in their first eight games, sliding Cole Freeman to second base for Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game at Nicholls State.
The move completes LSU’s fourth different infield alignment since the season began.
“I’ll be fine,” Robertson said Tuesday. “Just throw and catch.”
The alignment will remain the same for the team’s next four games, Mainieri said, and he’ll re-evaluate after the LSU’s weekend series against Fordham, after which the team has just one nonconference series before beginning Southeastern Conference play.
O’Neal Lochridge, who has started the past five games at third base, will remain there. Bryce Jordan will get a second straight start at first base Wednesday, though Mainieri said he’s still “not sure” how he’ll manage that position.
“I want to be able to play a full week of games, nonconference games, before we open the conference games with the lineup that I feel is going to be our best lineup,” Mainieri said. “This is kind of like the last week in my mind that I can do any experimenting to see what the best route is going to be.”
Robertson, a shortstop throughout his career at Midway High School in Waco, Texas, is now the third player to handle a position that was an afterthought for the past seven years, when Bregman and Austin Nola provided defensive dominance.
“I expected myself to make every single play at second, expect the same thing at shortstop,” Robertson said. “Just because the position is more difficult, there’s going to be more errors there — but if I make an error, it’s my job to get the next one. ... You have to have a mature player at shortstop who has a short memory, and I think coach has seen that in me.”
It’s the exact reason Mainieri made the move.
“It’s all sunk in — all the coaching we’ve tried to do for 2½ years, he has evolved into that veteran leader that plays with that level of maturity, knowledge of the game, instincts,” Mainieri said. “I feel like I have a coach-on-the-field type of feeling.”
Trey Dawson, the team’s opening-night shortstop who was benched after two games, will now take grounders as a backup at second, third and shortstop, Mainieri said. Greg Deichmann, who started at first base on opening night, will be the designated hitter at Nicholls.
Deichmann made two errors in four starts at first base, moving Jordan into the discussion. Mainieri said he has “not totally given up” on Deichmann as a first baseman but said he’s keeping all options open.
Jordan, a 5-foot-9 backup catcher who had never played first before this season, started in Sunday’s 11-1 victory, snaring a few high throws — including a leap and tag on an errant throw from Lochridge at third.
“It’s totally different. You honestly just have to react to the ball,” Jordan said. “It can be thrown anywhere at any time; you just have to get low and get ready for any kind of throw. ... We had (Chris) Chinea over there. (Kade) Scivicque played there last year, Mason Katz. We’ve put short people over there before, so I think that’s going to work out.”
Freeman, the team’s opening-night third baseman, is now slated to play his third position in eight games.
It’s his most familiar, though, after two seasons as Delgado’s second baseman — including one in which he earned an NJCAA Gold Glove.
“This is what coach does, and this is what we’re getting ourselves into, so we’re going to do our best to hold each spot down,” Freeman said. “You’d like to go out and run to the same position every time, but ... (versatility) is going to be something I’m going to have to be for the rest of my life, even when I leave LSU. I’m going to get used to it and do whatever the team needs.”
Freeman and Robertson worked until early dusk Tuesday afternoon, refining their double play connection now that they’ve swapped positions. Robertson also took grounders after they completed.
“It’s been since September since I’ve played there,” Robertson said. “I don’t think it’ll take long. It’s like riding a bike.”