COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kramer Robertson ran in from his usual infield practice before Saturday’s game against Missouri to an unusual request.
“Will you sign my leg?” Brian Garner asked from the Taylor Stadium bleachers.
Reluctant at first, Robertson noticed the root of the request. Garner, a 59-year-old St. Louis native, was born with a birth defect in his hip that caused his right leg to grow at a slower rate than his left. He has worn a prosthetic for 55 years, he said, and getting signatures of his favorite athletes “keeps him feeling young.”
Robertson signed the prosthetic. LSU coach Paul Mainieri did the same on Friday. Garner said Mainieri told him he was “honored” to add his signature to a leg that has collected the signatures of nearly 70 people.
Among those who have signed Garner’s leg: ESPN baseball analysts Buster Olney and Tim Kurkijan, St. Louis Cardinals players Tommy Pham and Marco Gonzalez and former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker.
A self-proclaimed college baseball diehard, Garner coaches “high-level” baseball in St. Louis and is a Missouri season-ticket holder. He said he “latches on” to an SEC player each season.
Last season, it was Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson, the eventual No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft. This season, it’s Robertson, about whom Garner gave glowing reviews and even compared to Swanson.
“Flashy,” he said of Robertson. “But off-the-hook outstanding.”
Freeman back to ninth
In an effort to solve the curse that has consumed his cleanup hitters, Mainieri shuffled his Saturday lineup to get Greg Deichmann hitting cleanup, which moved nine-hole hitter Cole Freeman up into the second spot.
The result, for the most part, was unfavorable. Freeman finished 0-for-5 with a strikeout and Deichmann went 0-for-3, drawing two walks and scoring a run. LSU’s cleanup hitters — Deichmann, Beau Jordan, Brody Wofford, Robertson and Jordan Romero — are now 2-for-30 in its last seven games.
One of the two hits was Jordan’s single in the fifth inning of Friday’s 9-7 win against Missouri. Jordan’s started 27 times as LSU’s cleanup hitter.
“(Freeman) scuffled at the plate today,” Mainieri said. “Probably put him back down to ninth (on Sunday) where he’ll feel more comfortable and they’ll challenge him more. I think they pitched him different at the top of the order, threw him a lot more breaking balls. We’ll have to figure something out, got to figure out that middle of the order a little bit.”
Nine outs, no problem
LSU got its second nine-out save in as many days Saturday when Parker Bugg pitched three innings of one-run ball in relief of Alex Lange. Hunter Newman closed LSU’s 7-5 Friday night win while allowing one hit across his three innings.
“Both Parker and Hunter Newman — I don’t even know if there are enough superlatives,” Mainieri said following Saturday’s game. “I feel like (Bugg’s) in the groove now and he’s a guy we can count on down the stretch. And Hunter’s been doing that for two years.”
It wasn’t unfamiliar territory for Bugg, who recorded an 11-out save in LSU’s 10-3 win against Auburn on April 3, when he entered mid-at-bat in relief of an injured Alden Cartwright.
LSU came into the weekend with just three saves as a team.
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.