LaMarche ready for LSU experience

The former Long Beach State pitcher is leaning toward a stint with the Tigers after working back from Tommy John surgery over the last 14 months.

As is the case with most players who wind up with a choice to make after the Major League Baseball Draft, LSU commitment Will LaMarche has plenty to weigh before he reaches a final decision.

It sure seems like the big right-hander is leaning toward an August arrival in Baton Rouge.

Minnesota drafted LaMarche in the 18th round of the MLB Draft earlier this month, giving the Pleasanton, Calif., native two options to consider.

LaMarche is spending his summer with the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League, the latest phase of his rehabilitation from elbow reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery a little over a year ago.

After spending his freshman season as a redshirt at Long Beach State in 2010, LaMarche needed the surgery on his elbow and missed the 2011 season.

At Chabot Community College this last spring, LaMarche was brought along slowly and logged 19 innings in 11 appearances.

So far this summer LaMarche has pitched in eight games with 9.1 innings under his belt.

“Negotiations are still in the process, but there is a really solid chance I’ll be attending LSU,” LaMarche said. “I’m not going to get an opportunity to play college baseball anywhere better than LSU and that weighs real heavily in my decision. I don’t want to pass up the college experience, and with LSU it sounds like the better opportunity for me right now.”

LaMarche, who turns 21 on Aug. 7, is being brought along slowly in large part because he hasn’t built up the kind of endurance he had before the surgery.

A 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander, he said his velocity has increased from his freshman campaign from the high 80s to 93-96 mph on a consistent basis. He said part of that is maturing physically, but he also thinks the Tommy John procedure allowed his arm to reset to a certain degree.

Will LaMarche: After Tommy John surgery, his velocity has increased to the 93-96 mph range

“I feel like I’m stronger than before the surgery, but I just don’t feel like I have as many bullets to take to the mound each time,” LaMarche said. “It’s a process I’m working on and I’m working on trying to extend myself more every time I work in the bullpen.”

While that process plays put, LaMarche is experimenting with different roles.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri said the key for LaMarche will be to show he can consistently throw strikes.

“This kid is really starting to feel good about himself, and that’s always an important step after Tommy John,” Mainieri said. “It’s way too early to forecast what role he’ll pitch in because we want to see how all the guys compete in the fall before we start defining roles for anybody.

“If he can harness that electric stuff he has, we’re anxious to see what he can do. He’s got to be able to pump strikes to the plate and I can’t wait for (pitching coach Alan Dunn) to get together with this kid and see what they can come up with.”

One job that will be wide open when fall practice begins is the closer spot. Nick Goody left after one season leaving a void.

With his velocity and maturity – combined with the work-in-progress endurance – LaMarche could be a candidate for that spot.

“I would have no problem with that at all,” LaMarche said. “Wherever the coaching staff needs me most, I’m ready to step in and be the guy they need me to be. But I definitely feel like I have the mentality to fill a spot like that.”

Perhaps it was fate, but during LaMarche’s official visit last spring, his host was Goody. And it so happened that Goody also came out of the bullpen to finish up a game in front of an energized Alex Box Stadium crowd.

“I got to see him close one out, and the way he did that in front of all those people opened my eyes,” LaMarche said. “I could see being in that situation.”

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