There was supposed to be a race at Tuesday’s LSU baseball practice, at least according to those who allow themselves to dream.
The origin of this hope was a tweet from junior infielder Chris Reid, and it was in response to this quote from his coach Paul Mainieri, spoken after Sunday’s Hawaii series finale: “He can’t run from here to there in a day and doesn’t have any power, but he puts the bat on the ball as good as anybody we have on the team.”
Reid’s response, via Twitter: “I challenge thee (Mainieri) to a race Tuesday at practice! Be there!”
Mainieri dashed the hopes. He could not race and risk Reid aggravating a hamstring injury he suffered (and played through) early in a contest against Southeastern.
That in itself tells something: Reid has suddenly rediscovered an important role as a starting infielder on the LSU baseball team.
Quite a bit of time had passed since Reid could arrive at the ballpark and say with any confidence he would get more than one opportunity to hit.
But he started five of LSU’s past six games — two at second base in place of an injured Brandt Broussard and three in place of a struggling Jake Slaughter at third base.
“It was fun to get back out there,” Reid said. “It’s been a while.”
And he showed Mainieri in those games what Mainieri figured he would see.
“I thought Reid played exactly the way I thought he would — steady Eddie, puts the bat on the ball,” Mainieri said.
So, this circles back to Mainieri’s quote about Reid and the expectations therein, namely: LSU does not expect Reid to drive other teams crazy on the base paths, and it does not expect him to hit the ball out of the yard.
It does expect him to execute his skill set at a high level, and that is to be a tough, competitive player in the batter’s box.
Reid said his approach typically revolves around trying to see everything the opposing pitcher has, then if he can, trying to hunt fastballs.
“Work the pitcher, see all his pitches, get a pitch that I can handle extremely well and take advantage of those pitches,” Reid said. “Match that up with my eye for the strike zone, and I just try to grind the at bat out. Try to make the pitcher as uncomfortable as I can.”
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It is an approach that is made easier when he is getting two, three or four at-bats in a game.
Last season, he had to make himself comfortable with coming in cold off the bench in pinch hitting situations, a challenging job not only because he had sometimes sat for hours before entering the game, but also because he was relying on secondary information instead of working a pitcher for several at-bats.
“Usually you’re just getting that one at bat per game and they expect you to produce,” Reid said. “A lot of people can’t do that; it’s a really hard thing to do.”
The pressure may be greater in a starting role, but now at least Reid is armed with knowledge and experience when he comes to the plate. He is able to settle into a groove.
In his four starts last week, Reid went 6 for 14 (.429) with three RBIs, four walks, two sacrifice bunts and one sacrifice fly.
“I thought he made us a better team this weekend,” Mainieri said.
Austin Bain was an infielder for much of his life before he came to LSU, but his experience last weekend was something new and challenging.
Josh Smith update
Sophomore infielder Josh Smith, LSU’s opening-day starter at shortstop who has been out since the Notre Dame series with a stress reaction in his back, saw a specialist for a checkup Tuesday.
Mainieri said Smith has been feeling better, enjoying a greater range of pain-free motion than he had in the weeks following the injury.
Even if everything goes smoothly with Smith’s visit, Mainieri said he probably will not start practicing this week. The plan was always for Smith to spend four weeks doing no physical activity before beginning rehab.
“I’m hoping he’s going to get a clean bill and put in another week of rest,” Mainieri said. “Maybe next week this time he can start doing some baseball activity.”
Mainieri said he is hopeful Smith would be able to return for the Mississippi State series.
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