Paul Mainieri excited for fall practices

Paul Mainieri goes in-depth on his LSU baseball team as the Tigers opened fall practice Monday. He breaks down everything from the pitching staff to the competitions in the field.

LSU Baseball coach Paul Mainieri met with the media prior to the Tigers’ first day of fall practice. He goes in-depth on every aspect of his team and discusses what he hopes to get out of this fall in preparation for the 2015 season.

“Fall practice every year is the same. I have two major goals. The first goal is to teach the guys to play the game the way we want them to play it, which is fundamentally sound, with an attitude, confidence, aggressiveness, those types of things. The second goal is to create a competitive environment, so we can decide which players are the ones going into the spring we think we’ll count on.”

On the pitching staff and having open competition for the weekend rotation…

“When you start to identify the personnel through the competition, you have certain areas that are more important than others. Every year the one consistency is to figure out the pitching staff. That’s always priority No. 1. We’ve got one really good starting pitcher back from last year, Jared Poché, who I thought was remarkable for a true freshman. I would think he’ll have a really good chance to win a job.

“But the rest of it is wide open. I’m anxious to see these young arms. We went out and recruited them for a reason. We thought they had great upside and their chances of stepping in and making a huge impact on our program was there. We just have to see how ready they are and how much improvement they make through the fall.”

On if he thinks Poché can be the Friday night starter…

“That would be a good challenge for him. I say he’s got a good shot to be in the weekend rotation, but that’s not a lock. Every year is its own entity. It might sound harsh, but it’s a reality. What happened last year doesn’t mean anything this year. I’m going to run the guys out there that deserve to be out there, that give us the best chance to be successful…The important thing in Jared’s case is that he can’t rest on his past laurels. The way to keep him inspired is to give him a goal, to dangle a carrot in front of him…He wants to be the man, the leader of our pitching staff. He can go a long way in doing that this fall.”

On his expectations for young pitchers that didn’t pitch last year, either because of injury or their development…

Hunter Newman and Chris Pelaez are back, and they’ve been doing all of their side work. They feel pretty good. We’ve got to play the games, and we’ll figure out who’s ready to go and in what roles. Jesse Stallings is throwing well too. He looks good, and Andrew Mitchell has looked good in his side work. They both throw the ball about 90 mph. They’re legitimate guys. I’m anxious to see how much they improve this fall.”

On his highly regarded freshmen pitchers — Jake Godfrey, Jake Latz, Alex Lange and Doug Norman

“I don’t expect them to be perfect. They’re only freshmen, and we have time to watch them grow…It’s important to be patient with them, because it’ll be a roller coaster as we go through fall practice. I just want to see them improve and command the strike zone. It’s hard not to get excited when you watch them throw in the bullpen. Now when we get to see them in a scrimmage, it will be another test for them.”

On competition at third base, where Conner Hale, Danny Zardon and Greg Deichmann are battling…

“The biggest hole for us is at third base. The most underrated aspect of our team the last two years was the defense Christian Ibarra brought to our team…I don’t take third base for granted. We need to find somebody that can get the job done defensively. I don’t expect anybody to be quite as good as him, but someone that can be serviceable and make the routine plays consistently is what we’re looking for.”

On having three solid outfielders return in Jake Fraley, Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird

“Outside of Alex Bregman, the most for sure thing we’ve got going for us are those three guys in the outfield. I just love all three of them. They’re not only outstanding defensive players because of their speed, but they’re also three of our best offensive players. Our outfield’s in pretty good shape…it’s the least of my concerns.”

On the battle at catcher…

“It’s still very open. By the end of last year, I thought Scivicque had moved a bit ahead of Chinea. But Chinea was still a force with the bat. Then this summer, Chinea played better than Scivicque and now you add Papierski into the mix. He’ll be right there with those other two guys for playing time.”

**Mainieri said freshman Bryce Jordan is a bit behind the other three at catcher. All four will split time between catcher and first base during fall practices.

On expectations for the second years of Danny Zardon and Kramer Robertson

“I’m really excited about both those guys. Going from freshman year to sophomore year is a big difference. Kramer made the Cape League all-star team, and Zardon could’ve. He hit over .300. He played good up there. So I’m anxious to see both of them this fall and see the next level of maturity they’ve gone to.”

On if he’s seen a difference in the new baseballs that are supposed to bring back the offense missing from the college game recently…

“Everybody seems to think they are. I’m not 100 percent sold yet, because I haven’t seen it in the games. But when you talk to the hitters, they feel more confident up there that when they hit them, the ball’s carrying more…I’m hoping it will bring a little more offense to the game. We’ll have to see how it plays out this fall.”


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INJURY NOTES


LSU will be without three pitchers for at least part of fall practice.

Kyle Bouman suffered a concussion last month in an “off-the-field incident.” He’s been held out the last two weeks, and Mainieri said he will miss at least the first week of the fall. He could miss more depending on how he recovers from the head injury.

Russell Reynolds, who missed the entire 2014 season, will be held out the entirety of the fall. Mainieri said he fell out the back of a pickup truck and suffered significant damage in his non-throwing elbow. LSU isn’t yet certain if he’ll need surgery.

Troy Whitty will miss the entire 2015 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in August. He also missed the entire 2014 season with a knee injury that required surgery.


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