Mainieri not down on Tigers after weekend

LSU didn't have an ideal start to conference play in Nashville this past weekend. The Tigers dropped two of three games to Vanderbilt, but Paul Mainieri's focused on the positives moving forward. There are some concerns with the pitching staff though, and TSD has all the notes on LSU baseball.

There's a pessimist's way of looking at LSU's series loss to Vanderbilt this past weekend. Then there's the optimist's way.

Paul Mainieri chooses to take the half-glass full approach.

"I'm going to stay positive with our guys," Mainieri said. "There wasn't a single sweep in the conference this weekend, so we're going to look at it like we're one game out of first place with 27 to go."

A 1-2 start to conference play isn't ideal, but Mainieri takes solace in that one victory, a 4-2 come-from-behind effort on Friday. The Tigers failed to capitalize on that momentum though, falling in both games of a Saturday doubleheader, 5-3 and 9-3.

But Mainieri said he didn't learn of any deficiencies in his team after this past weekend. Instead he chalked up to the Commodores' superior pitching staff.

"It's such an embarrassment of riches that Vanderbilt has," Mainieri said. "It's hard to believe they can put a staff together like that on 11.7 scholarships…When you have a dominant pitching staff like that, your chances of winning are greater because it forces the other team to hold you down to a low-run game and obviously we weren't up to that challenge."

LSU certainly do itself any favors offensively either. The Tigers' middle of the lineup — Alex Bregman, Conner Hale and Kade Scivcique — went a combined 5-for-34 at the plate this weekend. LSU only drew five walks against Vanderbilt, three of which came in the season finale.

And LSU also struggled to advance the few base runners they did get. The Tigers didn't steal any bases, nor did they execute any sacrifice bunts or hit-and-runs.

"I'm not going to get down our guys," Mainieri said. "I call it an aberration, and that's not meant in any way disrespectful to Vanderbilt because I think their pitching is the reason the weekend went the way it did."


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MAINIERI CONCERNED FOR HIS PITCHING STAFF


LSU only opened conference play with 13 pitchers available. That number took a hit after this weekend.

Alden Cartwright came out of Saturday's first game with soreness in his throwing shoulder. Mainieri said they don't know exactly what's wrong with him, but the team trainer believes it to be a muscle strain, which would likely sideline him for two or three weeks.


Alden Cartwright will miss at least two weeks with a shoulder injury
Cartwright will be evaluated by a doctor Tuesday for an official diagnosis. LSU lost Hunter Newman and Troy Whitty before the season, and these injuries have left the Tigers' pitching staff strapped for depth.

"I'm getting a little nervous about it to be honest with you," Mainieri said. "Let's hope we can keep everybody healthy because it starts to get a little thin, especially when outside of [Aaron] Nola you don't have that one guy that's going to dominate and pitch deep into the game for you."

Without Cartwright for the time being, Mainieri will change some of the pitchers' roles. Cody Glenn, once in the weekend rotation before moving to the bullpen, will start Wednesday when the Tigers face South Alabama.

Brady Domangue, who had started midweek contests the previous two weeks, will likely be the first guy out of the bullpen Wednesday, with Mainieri saying they need to groom him to pitch in relief during the weekend.

For Glenn, he continues to try and prove he still has something left in him that resembles his 2013 form. Glenn came out of the bullpen in the series finale against Vanderbilt and surrendered a run in 1 2/3 innings on two hits with a walk and also hit a batter.

Mainieri said Glenn can still compete for a spot in the weekend rotation by pitching well.

"It sounds like a broken record, but he's pitched well at times, and when he does, you can see why," Mainieri said. "We just need to see him be more consistent, see if he can put five or six innings together for us, pitching at a high level. And I think he can, I think he will and I think he'll start this Wednesday."

LAGNIAPPE


---Though Mainieri has plenty of concern with his pitching staff, one bright spot from this weekend was Zac Person. The transfer from LSU-Eunice got a key inning-ending strikeout Friday in relief of Aaron Nola. He returned to the mound Sunday and worked a perfect inning with another strikeout.

Though Mainieri called Person his "lefty specialist" before SEC play started, he may see a bigger role moving forward.

"There's a little bit of temptation to expand his role," Mainieri said. "We've talked about it a lot and I think Zach's going to be one of those guys that's very valuable for us in the late innings."

---Jake Fraley may also be earning some extended playing time. The freshman hit .600 in limited opportunities during the non-conference slate, but Mainieri called on him in big situations against Vanderbilt.

Fraley reached on an error in Friday's game, extending that eighth inning in which the Tigers would rally for four runs. Fraley got an at-bat in each of the next two games as well, getting a hit and scoring a run in the first leg of the doubleheader.

"He continues to impress in practice," Fraley said. "He's got to learn some of the finer points of the game, but if we weren't so deep in the outfield, I'd get him more playing time because I think he's coming on."

---LSU wasn't punished too severely in the polls after the series loss this past weekend. The Tigers held steady at No. 6 in both the NCBWA and Coaches' polls. LSU also maintained a No. 8 ranking with Baseball America.

LSU did drop two spots to No. 11 in the Perfect Game Top 25, and the Tigers suffered their biggest hit in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll, falling four spots to No. 7.

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