LSU coach Paul Mainieri met with the media Wednesday at Alex Box Stadium to put a wrap on the 2017 season and look ahead to 2018. Here are some of the highlights:
• Freshman pitcher Eric Walker had Tommy John surgery on his right (throwing) arm last week in Dallas, requiring a year’s recovery time and keeping him out for all of the 2018 season. Mainieri said LSU still has to count Walker as one of its 27 scholarship players but can replace him on the overall 35-man roster.
• With Walker out, Mainieri expects to have to move sophomore Zack Hess from his role as LSU’s late-season closer into the weekend starting rotation, along with junior Caleb Gilbert. Mainieri was noncommittal about a third starter, though he did mention returners Todd Peterson and Nick Bush.
• Walker’s injury opened a spot for LSU to sign right-hander Clay Moffitt from LSU-Eunice. Moffitt is the son of LSU’s assistant athletic director for strength and conditioning, Tommy Moffitt.
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• Bryce Jordan, who missed the 2017 season with a knee injury suffered in preseason practice, should be full go for practice this fall, except maybe for catching. (Jordan is LSU’s fourth catcher.) Mainieri said the twin brother of designated hitter Beau Jordan will likely open the fall at first base.
• As expected, Josh Smith will move from third base to shortstop for his sophomore season. Jake Slaughter could play third or possibly second, with Delgado transfer Brandt Broussard, a University High graduate, also a candidate at second.
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• LSU was hit hard by the MLB draft, but the Tigers still bring in a large class of 18 newcomers. That includes 11 pitchers, with an emphasis on left-handers, an area where the 2017 Tigers were lacking.
• Mainieri said he has had a chance to watch video of Slaughter’s controversial slide in Game 2 of the College World Series final against Florida. Slaughter was called out at second for sliding out of the base path, forcing what would have been the tying run in Smith back to third. Smith never scored, and LSU, which trailed 2-1 at the time, went on to lose 6-1 as the Gators won the title. “I think it was the correct call,” Mainieri said. “Should it be called at that point in the game? It’s a shame we put the umpire in that position. Jake was hustling, thinking he was doing something to help the team. He honestly thought he slid straight into the base, but he was slightly out of the baseline.” Mainieri called for expanded replay capability in the CWS, saying a replay might have reversed the call.
• The Tigers aren’t ready to release their 2018 schedule, but Mainieri did say LSU will open at The Box with series against Notre Dame and Texas. Mainieri was the coach at Notre Dame before coming to LSU in 2007 and took the Tigers to South Bend, Indiana, for a two-game series in 2016.
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