Injuries are piling up, putting LSU baseball in a difficult position, giving the Tigers no wiggle room on a short week and making Paul Mainieri joke he will need a reporter to pitch on Tuesday.
When No. 15 LSU plays UL at Metairie on Tuesday, it might have only 23 healthy players on its 35-man roster. Two days later, the Tigers host No. 25 Florida.
LSU might play this week without its entire opening-weekend rotation and three of its starting position players.
On Monday morning, Mainieri went through the injuries with athletic trainer Cory Couture. Halfway through, Couture went back to his office to fetch his notes. He didn’t want to forget somebody.
“I've never seen so many people get hurt in one season before,” Mainieri said.
Wrapping up LSU baseball's series at Missouri.
During its series at Missouri this past weekend, LSU lost two games and three starters, possibly a fourth.
Pitcher Zack Hess pulled a muscle in his groin. Center fielder Zach Watson strained a muscle in his groin. Third baseman Chris Reid pulled his right hamstring. Infielder Hal Hughes got hurt but stayed in the game.
Meanwhile, freshman pitcher Landon Marceaux did not travel to Missouri because he again felt soreness in his shoulder. He won’t pitch Tuesday, and Mainieri doubted he would be available for the weekend.
Freshman Jaden Hill remains, at best, a few weeks from pitching because of continuing soreness. Five other pitchers are hurt.
After losing three games last week, LSU baseball fell out of the top 10 in all but one poll.
Injuries have plagued LSU since fall practice, but back then, there were months until the beginning of the season. Now, LSU sits in the thick of the Southeastern Conference Western Division race, one game out of first place.
“We got to keep battling, keep fighting, keep trying to compete every day and try to find a way to win,” senior right fielder Antoine Duplantis said. “Each individual person needs to do whatever they can to get better.”
Hess exited his last start after 13 pitches. LSU doesn’t have a clear choice to fill his spot. Mainieri didn’t think LSU could move up starters Cole Henry and Eric Walker, because they already will pitch on short rest against Florida.
With the short week, LSU will use a lot of pitchers on Tuesday.
“We're going to have to somehow get through it on the mound and have guys available for the weekend as well,” Mainieri said.
LSU baseball lost on Sunday, dropping its series at Missouri.
Watson left last Friday’s game in the eighth inning after he ran through first base and limped off the field. Reid hurt his hamstring the next day, also running through first base. He played two more innings. Neither played Sunday.
The Tigers struggled at the plate that day, not recording a hit until the sixth inning. They ended up losing 11-5. Duplantis and shortstop Josh Smith both said Sunday it was “tough” playing without Watson and Reid.
On Sunday, Hughes collided with second baseman Brandt Broussard as they tracked a popup. The ball dropped to the ground. Hughes stayed in the game, but he saw doctors Monday. Mainieri did not know if he would play against UL.
Watson will not play Tuesday. Reid also likely will not play. If Hughes can’t go, LSU will have 11 available position players, 10 of whom are batting under .300.
“Anytime someone gets hurt, it's tough to mentally move on without them,” Walker said. “It's not something you can't overcome, but it's definitely something you can't ignore.
It's small, maybe three inches tall, with white, oval eyes and a cross made from white-out on its forehead. Meet Ja-boo, the toy watching over #LSU baseball: https://t.co/5h7mbo7cz4 pic.twitter.com/mvhTPHRjcC— Wilson Alexander (@whalexander_) April 13, 2019
“As far as the hitters, we have guys to step up, and I think they'll do their role coming in. It's next guy up, and hopefully we get those guys back.”