LSU strikes quickly in early 15-1 rout of Fordham, but Alex Lange struggles in a doubleheader sweep _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU's O'Neal Lochridge (9) congratulates Jordan Romero (28) after Romero's second inning home run in the first game of a double header Saturday, March 5, 2016 between LSU and Fordham at Alex Box Stadium.

The Twitter mailbag will run every Tuesday morning during baseball season, but questions are welcomed throughout the week @Chandler_Rome. Follow along for analysis and coverage throughout the season and, if you feel so inclined, ask away.

This has been a popular question and the most succinct answer I can provide is: defense. Romero is a catcher and, as we’ve discussed numerous times in Twitter mailbags and during games, Mike Papierski has a slight edge over him behind the plate. Paul Mainieri caught Romero a game during the Alabama series, but Papierski caught all three Texas A&M games.

Brody Wofford, who also possesses the power and pop that the Tigers lineup needs, has taken hold at designated hitter in the last four games. He, like Romero, got clutch hits when inserted early in the season and his promotion is a reward for that and his continued good swings in batting practice. Wofford is also a left-handed bat, which fits well with an unusually high number of right-handed starting pitchers in the SEC.

There was an intriguing development here at practice on Monday. Romero took ground balls at first base for about 20 minutes and when I asked Paul Mainieri if that could be an option going forward, he was non-committal.

On a team with so much youth and turnover, anyone has a legitimate shot to play if he proves himself in practice and demonstrates he can translate it into a game. Dawson hasn’t been neglected by Mainieri, who inserted the freshman in at third base late in Saturday’s game against Texas A&M and also in the series finale against Alabama — where Dawson made an incredible ninth-inning catch reaching into the stands.

Trey Dawson's status for the season-opener is in doubt after coming down with pink eye

Now biding for time at third base, Trey Dawson’s continuing to work toward a spot in the LSU lineup.

Dawson was the opening night shortstop and it’s pretty clear that Kramer Robertson has taken a hold of that position and, barring injury, will remain there for the duration of the season. Dawson will continue to work at third base where he’s shown some flashes of defensive ability, but his offense will need to come along if he hopes to crack the LSU lineup.

“The Jake Latz LSU baseball Twitter mailbag.” Has a good ring to it, right? I think that’s the new name going forward.

Kidding aside, there is substantial news on Latz’s recovery. We reported today Latz threw a 30-pitch bullpen in College Station last Friday that had coaches “fired up,” and put the southpaw on schedule to face live hitters “hopefully” next week.

Declaring absolute dates with elbow injuries is a dangerous move, so we won’t put an exact timetable on it. But Latz said yesterday the staff has a tentative plan in place and, if all goes well, he could be on track for the mid-April return Mainieri envisioned in January. If he does return by that time, Latz would need to rebuild his stamina and energy to excel as a starter.

But, again, let’s be abundantly clear. The LSU staff is not going to rush Latz back and will adjust their schedule according to how his elbow is feeling.

The short answer: nobody.

John Valek threw five shutout innings in LSU's 15-1 win in game one.

John Valek’s been remarkable in six starts.

LSU’s starting pitchers have been stellar in six SEC starts having allowed two or fewer earned runs in five of the six outings. John Valek has provided the staff with a stable Sunday starter for the first time in two years, notching perhaps his biggest performance against Texas A&M where he limited the conference’s best offense to six hits and two earned runs.

Barring injury or an unforeseen collapse by one of the three, this should be the rotation LSU sticks with through the remainder of the season — even if/when Jake Latz returns.

It’s hard to speak for other coaches, but Paul Mainieri is known for protecting his pitchers and not allowing them to exceed an inordinate pitch count.

Without having every box score from Mainieri’s 10-year LSU career in front of me, I’d estimate his limit is 120-125 pitches. And that depends on who is pitching, what his style is, how taxing his outing’s been and, ultimately, what the pitcher tells him in the dugout.

Fans were a bit shocked to see Mainieri trot out Alex Lange, at 105 pitches, to start the seventh inning in College Station. We asked Mainieri that night what his thought process was and he thought Lange “still had it.” A walk and popout ended his night at 117 pitches, but remember, Lange is a seasoned starter who had been in that pitch count realm before. Rarely will you see Mainieri put a true freshman in such a situation.

Also, it’s important to remember, Mainieri sees his pitchers throw every day, knowing their body language and signs of fatigue.

  1. Drank
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  3. I like pancakes.