For a team built to succeed on pitching and defense, this time of year isn’t a prime time to be hurting at the catcher position.
And from first glimpse, that might be what LSU’s current situation looks like behind the plate.
Look a little closer, though, and the Tigers aren’t in as bad a shape as it looks.
Freshman Tyler Moore will be the starter behind the plate when No. 2-ranked LSU begins play at the SEC Tournament on Wednesday against an opponent to be determined.
It will be his third consecutive start, but those three are the first since late February when he filled in for Ty Ross.
But Ross is still out of action as he recuperates from an appendectomy last weekend. And senior backup Jordy Snikeris was knocked out of defensive action when he took a foul tip off his right index finger in the ninth inning of the Tigers’ 5-2 triumph against South Carolina last Friday afternoon.
“I thought Tyler was great, especially since he hasn’t caught that many games this year,” said Ross, who was on the trip to South Carolina and in uniform. “I tried to talk to him as much as I could and help him with little things.”
Added Snikeris, who caught the four games after Ross’s surgery until he went down himself, “Last weekend Tyler did a great job when he was thrown in there. He asked us questions about signs and what to do in some situations. He did a great job and I think he developed some confidence because of how well he played.”
If Moore has a built-in advantage, it’s the presence of Ross.
Last season it was Ross who was thrown into the fire, starting 46 games as a true freshman after LSU lost Micah Gibbs from the 2010 team. Moore grew up in a hurry and developed relationships with most of the current Tiger pitching staff.
“I know how it feels to be thrown into the fire and how you have to adjust quickly to things,” Ross said. “Tyler is the kind of kid who’s going to keep working hard as he steps into that role.”
How long will Moore have to hold down the fort before he goes back to the first-base position he has helped solidify? That is yet to be determined.
Ross played catch and batted off a tee Monday, his first baseball-related acitivy since his appendix flared up.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he will be very cautious with Ross to avoid exacebrbating the problem, including the possibility of a hernia developing if he squats too quickly or too often like a catcher has to.
“We’re just not going to push it,” Mainieri said. “We want to make sure he’s healthy.
“When we get to the weekend, maybe he’ll get a few at-bats or even catch an inning or two.”
Ross said a Monday visit to the doctor showed no complications. He also relayed a story about his hospital stay when he was served solid food a little quicker than his surgeon would’ve liked.
“After surgery, they brought me a full plate of food and I devoured it,” he said with a smile. “I think they were a little worried about me but I was hungry.”
Fitting because now the Florida native is hungry to get back on the field after being idle for 10 days.
“I’ll just have to see how I feel, day-to-day,” he said. “I’d play (Wednesday) if they let, but you can’t rush it back.”
Snikeris’ status is also a bit murky. He is icing the finger and wearing tape his middle finger to keep the ailing digit as stable as possible.
There’s not much more he can do, though, to alleviate the pain and expedite the healing process – especially with a tendon that hurts whenever he extends the index finger when he throws.
“I saw a specialist and he said nothing is broken,” Snikeris said. “It’s just pretty swollen. There’s a bruise on the bone and that ligament is strained.
“It’s most sore to throw. I took BP and felt fine and had the same bat speed. I feel like I’m ready to hit.”
As for who’s next in line should Moore get dinged up – and he’s playing with a bruised right hand now because of the sudden activity behind the plate – Mainieri said senior Grant Dozar will head to Hoover as the No. 2 catcher until and unless Snikeris and Ross are ready to go.
Dozar has started six games behind the plate in his career, three in SEC play last season.
Nola named to SEC Community Service Team
LSU senior shortstop Austin Nola was named Monday to the 2012 SEC Baseball Community Service Team by the conference office.
The Community Service Team looks to highlight an athlete from each school who gives back to his community in superior service activities.
Nola, who received his LSU bachelor’s degree in sports administration last Friday, has been the leader of the LSU baseball program’s outstanding community service effort for the past two seasons. He participates in children’s hospital visits in the Baton Rouge area, and he visited Baton Rouge schools for “Read Across America” Day, encouraging students to expand their education through reading.
The Baton Rouge native is a finalist for the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, given annually to the senior college baseball player who excels in the areas of classroom, competition, character and community.
In the polls
LSU climbed up the ladder in all four national polls revealed on Monday.
After winning two of three games at South Carolina last weekend, the Tigers jumped up to No. 2 in both the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball polls, No. 5 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ rankings and No. 7 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.
Six other SEC teams are ranked in at least one poll: Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
Three of the four other teams on LSU’s side of the bracket are ranked in all four polls – UK, Arkansas and Mississippi State.