Some players take a season or two to settle into the position that fits them best at the college level with a lot of trial and error mingled in.
Could it be that Tigers freshman Tyler Moore is set to buck that trend a bit halfway through his first season?
Maybe not completely, but it does look like Moore will give Mainieri some options in the future, as well as a new alternative right now.
Moore made his second start of the season at first base in Tuesday’s 10-2 victory against Louisiana College and seemed right at home with a handful of nice scoops on throws from his fellow infielders and a slick turn on a 3-6-3 double play that ended the game.
As a prep star at The Dunham School, Moore never played first base. Instead he was a shortstop and catcher, a rare combination but one that illustrates his athletic ability and defensive value to the Tigers moving forward.
When Moore got on campus, Mainieri shifted him to third base while also working him at catcher, where he has made two other starts this season.
“I haven’t played a lot of first base,” Moore said Tuesday. “I try to take what I’ve learned from other positions and let that carry over to playing first base and that helps a lot.”
With both corner infield jobs available after this season and the catcher spot scheduled to free up after the 2013 season, Moore is positioning himself for a starting role – perhaps one where he moves around to accommodate the best matchups that allow other players also playing at one of the three positions.
Now Moore may be getting a chance to get a jump on next season by showing what he contribute with his bat. Mainieri said Moore will take over the DH role this weekend, at least against right-handed pitching, saying he thought the freshman was ready and it was time to see what he can do.
“He has a good eye at the plate and good balance at the plate,” Mainieri said.
“I think he’ll give us some good at-bats and drive in some big runs.”
Tuesday’s performance against Louisiana College wasn’t a bad start.
Moore went 3-for-3 – his first three-hit game – and chased home three runs, including a two-run single that anchored a four-run inning that put the Wildcats away.
That upped his average to .276, but he goes into the Florida series still searching for his first hit against SEC pitching (0-for-6).
“I’m more comfortable swinging the bat than I have been all season,” Moore said.
Nobody has found a way to cool off LSU left fielder Raph Rhymes so far this season, and Arkansas’ top-notch pitching staff was no exception last week.
Rhymes was 7-for-12 against the Razorbacks and drove in 6 runs – four in the series opener, which is his career-high in an SEC game.
When the dust settled after LSU’s sweep of the Razorbacks, Rhymes was named the SEC Player of the Week and he had solidified his lead in the league batting race at .491. His productive weekend also vaulted him to second in the SEC in RBIs (34).
Besides leading in average, Rhymes also tops the SEC in hits (53) and on-base average (.533). In nine leagues, Rhymes is batting at a scorching .531 clip.
Two Tigers hail from the Sunshine State and both may need to come up big this weekend for LSU to succeed against the Gators.
Ross heads into the weekend on a hot streak, with six two-hit games in his last eight starts – five vs. SEC teams. That 13-for-30 stretch (.433) has elevated his season average to .352 – 12th in the SEC.
He also leads league catchers in throwing out would-be base stealers with 12 gunned down in 26 attempts.
Goody has been an effective, albeit adventuresome, contributor from the Tigers’ bullpen. He has appeared in 15 games with a 1.26 ERA and has notched a win and a save in SEC play. The right-hander has given up two runs in 5 SEC innings, but is coming off a strong performance against Arkansas when he held the Razorbacks scoreless for 2.1 innings.
LSU third baseman Tyler Hanover is in the throes of one of the worst slumps of his career, with only two hits in his last 20-at bats – a swoon that has taken 51 points off his batting average to .307.
But the two hits came against Arkansas and were big: A solo home run to key a four-run inning that salted away a 10-6 win and an 11th-inning bloop single that helped set up Jared Foster’s bases-loaded game-winning single in a 3-2 win on Sunday.
“It ended off on a good note,” Hanover said. “My confidence is still great. I just wasn’t able to have success at the plate. I’ve got to keep taking take it one at-bat at a time and not worry about the ones before.”
On the way to the College World Series championship round last season, Florida relied on a deep bullpen that allowed coach Kevin O’Sullivan to effectively mix and match pitchers with situations.
The Gators are following a similar format this season, with four relievers who have made 13-15 appearances and thrown between 16-1-26 innings: Austin Maddox. Steven Rodriguez, Greg Larson and Daniel Gibson.
Those four have combined to go 9-2 and Maddox has saved eight games.
Whether O’Sullivan is trend-setting or it’s just coincidence, the Tigers are utilizing a similar style this season.
“The last couple of years, Kevin took guys that had previously been starting pitchers and moved them into the bullpen and they’ve had a lot of success doing that,” Mainieri said.
“No question if you have depth in your pitching staff, it separates you from other teams. Our depth is not where I would like it to be, but it’s better than it’s ever been.”
The Tigers on the roster for this weekend are:
Position players – Ty Ross, Jordy Snikeris, Mason Katz, Tyler Moore, Grant Dozar, JaCoby Jones, Casey Yocom, Austin Nola, Tyler Hanover, Jared Foster, Rhymes, Alex Edward, Arby Fields, Jackson Slaid and Evan Powell
Around the horn
LSU’s current four-game SEC winning streak matches the Tigers’ longest from all of last season. They haven’t claimed five consecutive league wins since early in the 2010 SEC slate when they shrugged off an opening loss to Arkansas and won the next two vs. the Hogs and then swept Tennessee and opened a series against Georgia with a 4-3 win.
The Tigers’ five one-run league wins this season are the most they’ve had since they won six in 2009.
Florida catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Preston Tucker have whacked 9 home runs apiece, which ties them for second in the SEC. Those two have cranked out more homers than LSU has as a team (15), but that doesn’t make the Tigers unique. The 18 homers between Zunino and Tucker is as many or more than six other SEC teams as well.
New week, bigger challenge