Inexperienced LSU baseball lineup ‘light years’ better, still developing as opening day nears _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro, left, shows Greg Deichmann how to better his bunt during practice in January.

Greg Deichmann smashed a ball to the left-center gap. It bounced once on the grass before hitting against the wall at Alex Box Stadium.

Those watching gave a smattering of applause and encouragement.

“He becomes an option now,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.

Deichmann, a highly rated freshman from Brother Martin, had a simulated game Wednesday afternoon at the Box, completing his recovery from a foot injury that knocked him out for most of the first six weeks of the season.

Deichmann gives the Tigers (22-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) another potential big bat in a lineup that’s already bashing pitchers.

Ranked No. 1 in the nation in all but one major poll, LSU is tied for the nation’s lead in batting average (.332) after its 13-7 win at Tulane on Tuesday.

The Tigers returned to practice Wednesday after Deichmann had a simulated game off of walk-on pitcher Ryan May. Deichmann, recovered from a stress reaction in his foot suffered during preseason practice, now becomes an option at designated hitter.

“Me and (Chris) Sciambra against righties (in a) DH-ing kind of role,” Deichmann said, explaining what Mainieri has told him. “The infield is pretty locked up right now. It’s going to be tough to crack in there.”

It’ll be tough for anyone to crack this lineup.

Mainieri says his lineup is “pretty much settled.” The best and most-played group seems to be this one: Jared Foster (2B), Chris Chinea (1B), Alex Bregman (SS), Conner Hale (3B), Kade Scivicque (C), Jake Fraley (LF), Andrew Stevenson (CF) and Mark Laird (RF).

Danny Zardon (3B) and Kramer Robertson (2B), both players who started at the beginning of the season, are the top reserves.

Sciambra has batted in the leadoff spot as the DH the last three games, but Mainieri says the DH and leadoff spot are “works in progress.” Fraley could find himself back at leadoff and so could Foster, the coach said.

Deichmann, the career home run leader at Brother Martin, is now another option. He went through his first full practice Monday before Wednesday’s simulated game.

“It was good to get back out there, to see it coming out of a pitcher’s hand,” he said. “Felt good. Coming back into it, getting my timing down.”

Injury report

X-rays on Scivicque’s forearm came back negative, and the senior is expected to return to practice Thursday. Meanwhile, a group of relievers is dealing heatlh issues.

Alden Cartwright and Hunter Devall didn’t travel with the team to Tulane on Tuesday. Cartwright had a fever, and Devall strained a muscle in his back, Mainieri said. Their status for the three-game weekend series against Kentucky starting Friday remains uncertain.

Closer Jesse Stallings “tweaked” his hamstring Monday and was available for Tuesday’s game, but Mainieri is glad the team didn’t need the redshirt freshman, giving him time to get to 100 percent for Friday’s opening game against the Wildcats (15-9, 2-4).

Scivicque took a fastball off of the inner forearm Tuesday and has a “bad bruise.” He didn’t practice Wednesday while receiving treatment. He’s expected to return to drills Thursday and play this weekend.

Latz halfway through program

Highly touted freshman pitcher Jake Latz is halfway through his throwing program as he recovers from a stress reaction in his elbow, but the left-hander won’t be game-ready until at least another month.

Latz, who hasn’t thrown this season after the elbow flared up during preseason practice, is three weeks into a six-week throwing program. He’ll then throw bullpens before coaches insert him into a game.

That might not be until May, but Mainieri is still set on the pitcher helping LSU this season. Latz, once a candidate for a weekend starting spot, won’t redshirt, something given to players who plan to be in school five years.

“He turned down a $1 million signing bonus so the chance of him being here for five years is probably nil,” Mainieri said. “Maybe he’ll be like Chad Jones for us. Even if he’s a lefty specialist. We’ll have to play that one by ear.”

Beau Jordan cleared

LSU freshman outfielder Beau Jordan has been cleared to return, he tweeted Thursday morning.

Jordan, a rookie from Lake Charles, tore the meniscus in his knee and had arthroscopic surgery about a month ago. He was seen Wednesday running through cones at Alex Box Stadium. Jordan visited the doctor Thursday morning, where he was presumably cleared.

A reserve player, Jordan injured the knee during an outfield collision in Game 7 this year.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.