Q & A: Paul Mainieri, Part 1

LSU's baseball coach discusses the progress of the pitching staff so far through fall ball, including the prospects for finding a Sunday starter.

The following is from an interview I conducted with LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri on Tuesday. Considering the length of the discussion, I plan to break up the Q&A into two or three parts. Today's portion focuses on pitching for the 2012-13 Tigers.

Ben Love: Looking at your starting pitching, I would imagine you feel pretty comfortable having Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades for Friday and Saturday. But how do you go about the process of finding your Sunday guy?

Paul Mainieri: That's going to be obviously an important decision. We haven't made the decision yet. Right now everybody is pitching in three-inning stints or less, so you're not really extending anybody. It's really a developmental time. Our pitching coach AD, Alan Dunn, is just kind of working with the guys, helping them figure out how to get hitters out and working on their mound presence, those types of things.

But we haven't really decided on who that third starter's going to be yet. Whoever it is will have big shoes to fill because Aaron Nola was pretty much our third starter last year, and it will be difficult to match up to that level of pitching. The one thing I do like about our pitching staff is we have some depth there. I do feel we can go 10 or 11 deep with a good deal of confidence. So there may not always be a traditional Sunday starter where you're hoping a guy can go out and give you seven innings. We may get to Sunday, see who's left we haven't used and mix and match like we did a lot of mid-week games last year.

BL: What about the dynamic with Chris Cotton? Is there a sense that you may not be able to use him in that Sunday role if he's so necessary in relief?

PM: Chris Cotton's role will probably be defined by the efforts of other people. I know I can put Chris Cotton in on Sunday, and I think he'd do an excellent job. But he was so valuable to our team last year in the role that we used him in, that'd I'd like to continue to keep him that role if at all possible. Kind of a set-up man slash closer.

But the only way that I could afford to move Cotton into the rotation is if somebody else emerged that I was as confident in as I would be with Chris in the late innings of the game. As important as your third starter is, it's no more important than your late-inning relief either. You have to be able to close games out, and Cotton proved that he could do that for us last year. We're just going to see if someone emerges enough in those late innings (to free Cotton up).

BL: Is Hunter Devall somebody who might be able to change your mind there?

PM: Well, Hunter has done some good things, but he's also had some rough outings this fall. He's a freshman, and it looks like it's going to take him a little bit of time. So I'm not going to pass any judgment on him yet because most often it takes freshmen quite awhile to kind of get it. And Hunter's a typical freshman right now.

BL: Tell me about Will LaMarche, your JuCo transfer who's a hard thrower. Where can he fit in?

PM: Yeah, this kid is kind of a wildcard for us. He's got a really good arm, and he's got a repertoire of pitches that aren't bad. He looks the part, too. He's a big strong kid. He could become Nick Goody for us, and if he does it's going to be a wonderful thing. We could use him at the end of the game and that would give me a little more leeway to use Cotton possibly as a third starter.

He's certainly got the arm. Believe it or not, he's in his fourth year out of high school, but he just hasn't pitched that much. He didn't pitch at all as a freshman because of a sore arm. He had Tommy Johns surgery in the summer after his freshman year and sat out what typically would have been his sophomore year. Then his junior year he finally pitched, but he only pitched about 20 innings because his coach was bringing him back slowly. Then he pitched about 20 innings this summer in summer ball.

So really you're talking about 40 innings pitched over the course of three years, that's not that much. So he's kind of working out the kinks, getting rid of the rust and learning what he's capable of doing. I keep telling this kid that he's got enormous talent and that if he can develop that confidence that cockiness like a Nick Goody had, he could be a lights-out closer for us.

BL: And as far as Nick Rumbelow goes, is he someone you also anticipate will soak up late innings?

PM: There's no doubt that Rumbelow is going to have an important role on our team again. And he's certainly a good candidate for the closer's role as well. I have tremendous confidence in him.

We actually have shut him down this fall. He pitched a couple of times at the beginning of the fall, but he had close to 30 appearances for us last spring and then he had another 20 this summer. So we just didn't want to take any chances with stressing his arm any more. So we had him pitch a couple of times and then shut him down for a month. We'll get him back throwing again probably next month to get prepared for the season. But he needed a little bit of a physical break as much as a mental break. He'll be good for us this spring, no doubt.

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