The best news LSU coach Paul Mainieri received Tuesday came before his team lined up for its third fall practice.
Mainieri got a call around 2 p.m. telling him that highly touted freshman infielder Josh Smith would not need surgery on his ankle, something Mainieri previously feared would keep Smith out the entire fall.
“He got on the treadmill today and actually hit in the batting cages, so (Wednesday), we’re going to bring him out here and work him out on our off day to see if he’s ready to go,” Mainieri said. “If he is, he’ll be out here on Thursday.”
Smith graduated from Catholic High School and is expected to compete for playing time on LSU’s infield this season.
He sprained his ankle this summer, and Mainieri was concerned that it was related to a “physical problem” in Smith’s ankle.
“In my mind, I was 90 percent sure he was going to miss the whole fall,” Mainieri said.
Smith’s doctor told Mainieri he did not believe the injury was related.
With Smith unable to go and not enough infielders to field two full lineups, Mainieri put junior Bryce Jordan at second base Tuesday.
“I only had six infielders for the three positions,” Mainieri said. “I know what Bryce can do, so I just filled him in over there.”
Smith wasn’t the only one who wasn’t able to go Tuesday, and Jordan wasn’t the only one playing out of position.
Jordan’s twin brother, Beau, took a ball off his foot in batting practice, then rolled his ankle on an ensuing swing.
“We had to go get his foot X-rayed,” Mainieri said. “Everything is fine, but he couldn’t stand on it today. Hopefully he’ll be back on Thursday.”
Junior catcher Mike Papierski worked at first base Tuesday, but like Bryce Jordan, Mainieri said he won’t stay there.
Papierski was initially slated to work as a designated hitter after catching the first two days of fall practice, but freshman Mason Templet came down with pink eye, causing Mainieri to call an audible.
“Templet had pink eye, so the only thing he was allowed to touch was his bat, his helmet and his batting gloves,” Mainieri said. “We couldn’t let him throw a baseball and give pink eye to everybody, so I had to take Templet out and DH him. That was the only reason.”
The Tigers held a four-inning scrimmage Saturday, and Mainieri came away impressed with the two starting pitchers, freshman right-handers Todd Peterson and Matthew Beck.
Peterson and Beck fired identical lines with one strikeout in two hitless, scoreless innings. It was the first time Mainieri had seen either pitch in a live setting since they arrived on campus.
One sequence with Peterson caught Mainieri’s eye, when he fell behind 3-1 to Greg Deichmann only to come back by throwing five straight low-90s fastballs for strikes, eventually getting Deichmann to fly out to center.
“I thought it was quite impressive,” Mainieri said.