Nine days before it opens the 2016 season against Cincinnati, shoulder soreness is stifling the LSU baseball team.
Righties Riley Smith and Collin Strall have been sidelined with undiagnosed shoulder problems, Strall for about two weeks and Smith’s troubles coming to coach Paul Mainieri’s attention just 15 minutes before he addressed reporters on Wednesday.
A power-throwing junior college transfer pegged to contend for the third or fourth spot in the rotation, Smith will see a doctor on Thursday and not pitch in practice this weekend, but Mainieri did not rule him out for opening weekend.
“We’ll see how bad it is, it might just be a thing that needs a couple days’ rest,” Mainieri said. “We’ll see the doctor tomorrow, but our trainer doesn’t think it’s anything too serious, maybe muscle fatigue or just a strain.”
Strall, a sidearming junior who has not pitched since the team began spring practice, was playing a leisurely game of catch with Tigers head trainer Cory Couture in right field prior to Wednesday’s practice.
He had a 3.93 ERA in 18.1 innings last season -- his first at LSU -- and was 3-0 in 22 relief appearances.
“Been sore for a couple of weeks. Thought it was getting better then he had another setback so he hasn’t pitched in a couple weeks,” Mainieri said. “He’s not going to be ready for opening day, there’s no doubt about that. I feel bad about that.”
Latz still shelved
Jake Latz, now in his 14th week removed from elbow surgery, is still not playing catch as the team awaits the approval from a doctor in Detroit -- one of three physicians Latz and his family sought opinions from before his Nov. 9 surgery.
“As of this morning, I had not heard that he had gotten back to us yet, so we’re waiting a couple extra days until we’ve heard from all the doctors and he had the green light,” Mainieri said. “Thought he was going to start throwing Monday, but they’re going to wait for all the doctors to make sure they sign off.”
Latz and Mainieri are both eyeing a late April return for the prized redshirt freshman -- the third-highest drafted high school prospect to not sign a professional contract in 2014 -- who has yet to throw a collegiate pitch due to his arm issues.
Mainieri ‘leaning toward’ staying in the dugout
A week after he entertained the possibility of coaching third base in his team’s Feb. 19 season opener, Mainieri said Wednesday he’s “leaning toward” remaining in the dugout and allowing new volunteer assistant coach Nolan Cain to assume the duties right away, though he reiterated no final decision has been made.
“Nolan has really improved here in the last 10 days,” Mainieri said. “He’s worked so hard at it, getting more reps and I think he’s becoming more confident and comfortable over there. I think it would be the best for our team if he could do it because it allows me to manage the game in an area that I can communicate better with the team.”
If Cain were to coach third base on opening night, undergraduate assistant coach Brent Bonvillain would coach first.
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter @Chandler_Rome