McCune ready for 2013 debut

After suffering a back injury prior to the 2013 season, LSU junior Kurt McCune will make his 2013 debut on Tuesday night against Southern University. While his pitch count may be limited, McCune is very excited to take the mound and get his junior season off to a good start.

LSU junior Kurt McCune has had his share of ups and downs throughout his college career. The 6-3 171 pound McCune was named to the 2011 Baseball America Freshman All-American second team after a freshman year that saw him go 7-3 with a 3.31 ERA over 89.2 innings as a weekend starter for the Tigers. In 2012, McCune saw a bit of a dip in his performance from his freshman season as he was relegated to starting mainly the midweek contests. McCune finished the season with a 3-4 record and a 4.04 ERA through 42.1 innings pitched.

McCune was a player that was in the discussion to become the Sunday starter for LSU in 2013. At the very least he would have been an outstanding option for the Tigers for their midweek contests. However, McCune had his junior season somewhat derailed before it ever got started. After battling back pain and discomfort for most of spring practice, it was discovered that McCune had suffered a fractured vertebra in his lower back just before the 2013 season was set to begin.

After an extensive rehab period, McCune will make his debut for 2013 on Tuesday night when LSU faces off against Southern University for the annual Wally Pontiff, Jr. Classic in New Orleans. LSU's Paul Mainieri said on Sunday that he already has a plan in place for what he would like to accomplish with McCune on Tuesday night.

"I'd like to get three innings out of Kurt McCune on Tuesday night," said Mainieri. "He will definitely start the game and he is excited about the chance. He got a little upset with me because he wants to go more than the three innings.

"We are going to take things slow with him and watch his pitch count. I'd like him to get us off to a good start and then we will probably go with Brent Bonvillain after that."

For McCune, it will be an opportunity to compete against someone other than his own teammates, something he hasn't done in nearly a year.

"I'm super excited, but I'm sure everyone already knows that," said McCune. "I haven't thrown in a real game in a while, but I've been throwing against a lot of live hitters. I'm just ready to get back out there and compete against another team."

McCune admitted that the injury was certainly hard to deal with when the diagnosis was first made. However, the former Destrehan High School took on the challenge and feels as though he his healthier than ever.

"At first, it was tough," said McCune. "However, I've been working hard and trying to get back in shape and get healthy. I'm finally healthy, probably as healthy as I've ever been. I'm throwing hard and with conviction. I'm excited about how I've been throwing and I'm anxious to see how it will go on Tuesday."

The road that McCune has taken to get back to playing shape required that he pitch against his own teammates on a regular basis. McCune believes that this process has helped him in more ways than one, especially with one of the pitches that he features in his repertoire.

"The live hitting that I faced gave me some confidence because it showed me that I can still locate all of my pitches well," said McCune. "I threw a bullpen today and couple of guys told me that my curveball looks better now than it did before the injury. That's always nice to know."

Aside from his curveball progressing during his rehab period, McCune has also gained confidence in a pitch that he believes will be essential to his success going forward in 2013.

"My splitter has been very effective for me and it is something that I will have to utilize," said McCune. "It will be a key to my success once I get back to pitching in conference games."

Even though he hasn't started a game in 2013, McCune has the same goals heading into the game that he would prior to any given start.

"I just want to stay ahead of hitters and throw a lot of strikes," said McCune. "I'd like to keep the hits and walks down, obviously, but I just want to stay out of 3-0 counts and work efficiently."

Coach Mainieri mentioned to the media last week that McCune might be an option to take over the Sunday starter role for the Arkansas series, which begins Friday night. McCune explained that he is just trying to take it one game at a time and capitalize when he gets his opportunities.

"I know the better that I perform the more I will get to contribute," said McCune. "That's all I try to think about and I just want to make sure that I'm doing the best job that I can. I'll let coach make all of the decisions after that."

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