Dunn excited about starting rotation

TSD's Austin Cooper recently caught up with LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn, who spoke about the outlook of his 2013 starting rotation. He feels the Tigers are ready to move on post-Gausman.

Going into the 2013 season, the LSU pitching staff's weekend rotation will look very similar to the 2012 group – only without the presence of big arm Kevin Gausman. Gausman gave up his final two years of eligibility to sign with the Baltimore Orioles, who selected him with their first pick in the 2012 draft.

Pitching coach Alan Dunn believes his two returning starters will be able to pick up the slack left behind by the departure of Gausman.

Sophomore Aaron Nola (6-1, 172) and junior Ryan Eades (6-3, 198) return to bolster the LSU starting rotation, something Dunn says is key to the success of the Tigers this season. Dunn explained that Nola and Eades both possess the qualities and experience to be great leaders for an LSU staff that had a collective 3.25 ERA a season ago.

"When you look at Ryan Eades and Aaron Nola, you see two guys that have experience," said Dunn. "Ryan has two years under his belt. With Aaron having the year he had as a freshman, you have to feel good about what those guys are going to bring to the table.

"I don't know how we are going to use those guys, in terms of if they will start Friday or Saturday. But, whichever way we go, I'm really glad those guys are on our team. We are going to go to battle with those two guys. Their upside and potential is very bright. They also bring a lot of stability and leadership to the staff."

Dunn was also very complimentary of the leadership abilities of Eades and Nola. He explained that they both proved last season they have what it takes to be leaders on the field for the Tigers.

"I think they have proved they belong there," said Dunn. "I think they will continue to get more comfortable and grow in that role. How you do on the field determines if you are a leader. It also means that you have great work ethic and a great attitude. Whoever goes out for a Friday night start sets the tone for the rest of the weekend. That's a leader. I think these guys are ready to step into these roles."

With the Tigers advancing to a Super Regional against Stony Brook last season, Dunn believes his staff gained a lot of valuable experience that has helped to prepare them for the 2013 season.

"I think if you look at our pitching staff and the guys that are coming back from last year, I feel really good about our staff," said Dunn. "We have a lot of experience coming back from last year, with the guys being thrust into competition and a Super Regional pretty early. They have gotten that experience and nothing prepares you to be ready to get into games better than that experience. I think we helped that along by putting ourselves in big situations last year."

Dunn also feels that his staff got a lot of valuable innings in conference play last season, something he feels is a requirement to be successful in the SEC.

"These guys know what the SEC is," said Dunn. "They understand that it's no joke, on any weekend. I would compare it to playoff baseball for ten weeks. These guys have been there before. They have been tested in an environment that features the best conference in college baseball. Having so many guys get thrust into that environment last year, it just helps us going into this season."

With the first two starting positions in the rotation already filled, Dunn said the Tigers are still trying to figure out who their third starter will be. The LSU pitching staff feature five or six guys that could contribute in a starter role, according to Dunn. That being said, Dunn feels that it will become obvious who that third starter will be as the season approaches.

"If you look at candidates and potential guys that could fit that third-starter role, you see five or six guys that are in the mix for it," said Dunn. "I really believe it will hit us in the face in the spring on who is going to be that guy. I feel good about our guys that are competing for that spot. The other guys that don't win that spot will make our bullpen even stronger. I like our candidates.

"We just want to put the guy out there that is going to give us the best chance to win. The dominoes will fall and everyone will end up in the role that they are supposed to be in."

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