Kramer Robertson’s Monday morning began at 7:30 a.m. It included three doctors, a set of braces on his top teeth and a declaration before he boarded an airplane to South Bend, Ind.
“I’ll be ready to go for the game,” Robertson said, still with a severely swollen upper lip.
The LSU shortstop was hit in the face after he lost Jake Fraley’s third-inning relay throw in the lights during Saturday’s 10-9, extra-inning win against Arkansas. Robertson had a similar injury prior to the season when a grounder in practice took a bad hop and struck him in the same spot.
Because of that earlier injury, Robertson’s worn a mouthpiece all season and had his teeth wired straight. Doctors told him without those wires and mouthpiece, Robertson would likely have lost two or three teeth in Saturday’s mishap.
“The game’s the easy part,” Robertson said. “You have adrenaline. The hard part is doing normal things. Trying to go to sleep at night, because when you lay down it starts throbbing, so I struggled to go to sleep. But when it comes to baseball, that’s the easiest thing for me to do right now.”
Robertson laid face down in the dirt for several minutes but remained in Saturday’s game, which he ended on an infield single in the 10th inning. He played eight of the nine innings in Sunday’s 7-1 win, taking a seat in favor of backup Trey Dawson with a 7-0, ninth-inning lead.
“He’d have to have a bone sticking out of his skin, literally, not to play in the game,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “He’s shown an amazing level of toughness and courage. I’m sure he’s going to want to play. I’m really proud of that kid.”
Valek ventures back
The Midwest air is thinner and temperatures are lower, a suitable spot for John Valek III to regain his form when he starts Tuesday against Notre Dame — 277 miles away from his former school.
“What is maybe a negative to take him out of the weekend rotation, we’re going to make it into a positive,” Mainieri said. “He gets to pitch in the Midwest, where it’s not going to be so warm and it’ll be more of a pitcher’s ballpark. I think it’ll get him back in a groove, allow him to pitch deep into the game, get his confidence back a little bit and hopefully burn up some innings.”
Valek was yanked from the Tigers’ weekend rotation after lasting just 3.2 innings and surrendering seven earned runs in starts against Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
After his Ole Miss performance, an 8-2 LSU loss, the soft-throwing left-hander attributed many of his struggles to falling behind in counts and having to throw his fastball in counts where hitters were expecting it.
“It’s been a while,” Valek said. “All I want to do is go out there and pitch. It could be frustrating for a pitcher, sometimes, especially a starter after you’ve had a few rough outings because you have to wait a week or in my case a few more days than a week to get back out there. Just want to get back out there to pitch again.”
Mainieri is also hopeful to get Jared Poche an inning of relief on Tuesday, hoping the southpaw can regain the form that’s disappeared in his last two starts. A week after surrendering five doubles against Ole Miss, Poche recorded just four outs against Arkansas on Saturday, surrendering seven hits and four earned runs.
“I think that will be a little better for me, fine tune some things and get back to where I need to be,” Poche said. “(I’m) just not executing pitches. Nothing to dwell on too much. Still high hopes, still keeping a positive attitude and still got a lot of important games left. I have to be better for the team.”
Beau Jordan ‘will get better’ defensively
Beau Jordan, who was benched in the first inning of Saturday’s 10-9 win after a defensive miscue in left field, said his early exit was a wake-up call and vowed to improve his defense.
Jordan fielded a single with one on and two outs in the first inning, throwing to third base instead of second, allowing Arkansas’ Carson Shaddy to advance an extra base into scoring position.
“It’s been going on for a while and he got tired of it, so he pulled me out of the game,” Jordan said. “I was trying to make a play and it ended up being not smart at all. The guy on second ended up scoring, which was big, especially in the beginning innings.”
“I’m going to practice on it and I’ll get better.”
Both runners scored on a two-RBI single one batter later. Mainieri benched Jordan for Brody Wofford following the play.
“(Jordan) just needs to take more pride in his defense,” Mainieri said following Sunday’s game. “Every defensive position is important, especially when you don’t have a team that’s a dominating pitching staff that strikes out a lot of hitters. I want all of our players to be complete players and take a lot of pride. I just feel like Beau for a couple of days here has become a little less interested in defense and it’s hurt us. I think he understands that lesson and today in pregame he worked really hard out there. We’ll see going forward, I’m not going to make any grand announcements going forward.”
Mainieri eventually benched Wofford, too, in favor of Brennan Breaux. Breaux had a career-high three-hit night, including a two-RBI double in a four-run, game-tying ninth inning.
Breaux, who had just one collegiate hit before Saturday’s heroics, started Sunday’s 7-1 win in left field, collecting another two-RBI single. He was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week by the league office on Monday for his exploits.
“Brennan came in and did his job,” Jordan said. “He earned his spot on our team now.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter @Chandler_Rome