New blood: Mainieri touts incoming class

With an eye on a bounceback season, the Tigers baseball program welcomes 14 newcomers to the team -- anchored by a crop of talented pitchers.

The dust settled and a roster filled out, LSU baseball coach talked about his program's 2011 recruiting class Tuesday with a clear tinge of optimism.

The Tigers added 14 freshmen and junior-college transfers to the program and officially bid farewell to a Tigers' star when Mikie Mahtook signed a final-hour professional deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the signing date finally over, Mainieri could reveal the new crop of talent coming in: Nine freshmen, five JUCO transfers, eight pitchers and six position players. There are also two freshmen on the football team who will go through spring tryouts – Terrance Magee and Jared Foster.

The influx of players gives Mainieri a 40-player roster to work with in the fall, 43 in the spring if the two football freshmen and sophomore Spencer Ware opt to try out. The NCAA roster limit is 35, 27 of who can be on scholarship.

"We'll have to make some decisions before our first game in February about who will be our final 35-man roster," Mainieri said.

That's in the future, though. Tuesday was more a day for excitement and renewal as Mainieri talked about the reinforcements for a program still stinging from being excluded from the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The focus was on bolstering an already talented young pitching staff and the Tigers did that with the addition of Aaron Nola, Cody Glenn, Nick Goody and Carson Baranik – all drafted hurlers who chose to come to school. Goody and Nola are projected to compete for the closer's role, and Nola could also join Glenn to push the sophomore trio of Kurt McCune, Kevin Gausman and Ryan Eades for spots in the weekend rotation.

Besides that quartet, left-handers Christian Trent and Brent Bonvillian are also expected to bolster an LSU bullpen that had some holes last spring.

"This might be the deepest pitching staff that I have ever had as a coach," Mainieri said. "I'm excited to see what (new pitching coach) Alan Dunn does with this staff because we have a chance, and maybe a need, to be a dominant pitching staff come spring time."

"Obviously, I'm very excited about three pitchers who were freshmen last year in the rotation. I don't forget what they did last year. That buys them a little bit of rope in case they struggle here or there because I've seen them be very good. We're going to let everybody battle it out this fall on the mound. There are some really quality arms out there. I think we're going to be deeper than we've ever been."

The new position players expected to make an immediate impact include:

• Tyler Moore from the Dunham School, who batted .561 with 15 home runs as a senior at the Dunham School and will compete for the starting job at catcher.

• Arby Fields, who will vie for starting jobs in left and center field. He was the starting center fielder at Northwestern in 2010 and turned in a solid season at Cypress College in California last spring.

• Chris Sciambra from Catholic High, who was twice voted Class 5A all-state, is also expected to be in the mix for the two open outfield spots.

• JUCO infielders Jake Barrios and Casey Yocom will be in the hunt for the starting job at second base should Mainieri – as expected – shift JaCoby Jones to the outfield.

All the newcomers will get a chance to show what they can do in the fall. Mainieri said Jones, Austin Nola, Tyler Hanover, Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes are secure in the starting lineup, and junior Alex Edward will be a frontrunner in right field.

But the catching job is wide open and veteran Beau Didier will also push for time on the infield.

"I'm expecting some very competitive intra-squad scrimmages all fall," Mainieri said.

Injury updates

Several Tigers had shortened summer seasons due to injury, but the only one with a serious off-season ailment is Rhymes.

The LSU designated hitter, coming off a season when he batted .360 with 18 doubles and 42 RBIs, had elbow reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery. Mainieri said he will be able resume swinging in early October and should be back for the final 2-3 weeks of fall drills.

Jones left the Cape Cod League early with a shoulder ailment and visited LSU alum Dr. James Andrews, whose recommendation was to rest it.

Catcher Jordy Snikeris and infielder Mike Lowery have battled lingering injuries and will try to get healthy for fall camp.

Pitchers Joey Bourgeois and Jordan Rittiner are ready to go in the fall after both had Tommy John surgery immediately after the 2010 season. Both could bolster the young pitching staff – each started a handful of SEC games before their injuries.

Roster shuffle

The reshaping of the roster began when the 2011 season ended, and four players from last season have left the program: Outfielder Trey Watkins, first baseman Kirk Cunningham and pitchers Forrest Garrett and Sam Peterson.

Mainieri said he didn't know where Garret was headed.

Cunningham and Watkins were let go when Mainieri told both there wasn't a spot for them on the revamped roster. Both will remain at LSU.

Peterson has transferred to a Mississippi junior college in order to move to catcher.

Door is open

Mainieri said he didn't include the three football players on the current roster because he wanted to see how the football season played out.

Asked about Magee, however, Mainieri was enthusiastic about the former Franklinton star after the two talked the day before football players reported for pre-season camp.

"He reiterated to me his strong desire to want to play the game of baseball," Mainieri said. "He loves baseball and he's an electric player. He can do some positive things.

"I told him I'd see him after the last football game and we'd talk about it then. In the back of my mind, I have strong anticipation of him being part of our program."


2011 signing class
Freshmen

Carson Baranik, RHP (Bossier City/Parkway High)
Cody Glenn, LHP (Houston/Westbury Christian)
Aaron Johnson, P-OF (Baton Rouge/Dunham School)
Tyler Moore, C-IF (Baton Rouge/Dunham School)
Aaron Nola, RHP (Baton Rouge/Catholic High)
Evan Powell, C-IF (Lake Charles/Sam Houston)
Chris Sciambria, OF (Baton Rouge/Catholic High)
Braden Strickland, RHP (Gun Barrel City, Texas/Eustache High School)
Christian Trent, LHP (Covington/St. Paul's)

Junior college
Jake Barrios, IF (Weatherford, Okla./Seward County CC)
Brent Bonvillian, LHP (Houma/Thibodaux High, Nicholls State, Delgado CC)
Arby Fields, OF (Alta Loma, Calif./Los Osos High, Northwestern, Cypress CC)
Nick Goody, RHP (Orlando, Fla./University High, State College of Florida)
Casey Yocom, IF (Reno, Nev./Reed High, Feather River CC)

Football players
Terrance Magee, OF (Franklinton)
Jared Foster, IF (Lake Charles/Barbe)

Players not returning
Kirk Cunningham, 1B
Forrest Garrett, LHP
Sam Peterson, RHP
Trey Watkins, OF

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