LSU tweaking lineup to find run production

LSU BASEBALL NOTEBOOK: Alex Bregman will move to third spot in the batting order with LSU looking for more slugging; Jared Poché ready to pitch two days earlier than initially scheduled; LSU going through an uncharacteristic rough patch defensively

Paul Mainieri will move Alex Bregman back to the third spot in the lineup for this weekend’s series against Boston College.

That’s where he’s spent the majority of his career at LSU, but Bregman hit out of the two-hole for the first four games this season. He has the lowest batting average (.235) among players with at least three starts, and Mainieri hopes dropping him one spot in the order can get him going.

“I’m going to leave him there,” Mainieri said. “The only reason I put him in the two-hole was to take a little pressure off him. What’s happened is he’s tried to make himself into a two-hole hitter, and that’s not who he is. He has to be a slugger.”

Bregman welcomes the change.

“I’ve hit a few balls hard,” he said. “I could easily be hitting .500 right now, but I don’t like the way I’ve swung. I’m not satisfied. I’ve got a lot more in there, and I’m going to try to get that out.”

Mainieri said he doesn’t know all the corresponding moves that will come with this change. He said Chris Chinea will likely stay in the cleanup spot, while Conner Hale will probably move from third to fifth. The first and second spots are still up in the air as of Thursday afternoon.

Mainieri hopes those tweaks to the lineup provide a spark to his offense that he says has been lacking aggression. The Tigers are coming off a loss to Nicholls State in which they left 17 players on base.

LSU has 43 hits this year as a team, but only six of those have gone for extra bases.

“We need some slugging,” Mainieri said. “We’ve just been too passive up there. We need to get Alex Bregman to start knocking the fences down. We need Conner Hale to not just be happy slapping singles, but to drive the ball with more authority. We need more threat in the lineup for extra base hits.”

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WEEKEND SCHEDULE



Game 1: Fri., 2 p.m. - LHP Jared Poché (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP John Gorman (0-0, 5.06)

Game 2: Fri., 7 p.m. - RHP Alex Lange (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Jeff Burke (0-0, 9.00)

Game 3: Sat., 3 p.m. - RHP Jake Godfrey (0-0, 2.45) vs. LHP Nick Poore (0-0, 5.06)

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POCHE STILL ON SCHEDULE


Jared Poché will take the mound two days earlier than initially planned. He was scheduled to start Sunday against Boston College, but he’ll instead pitch the first of LSU’s two games on Friday.

The coaches actually kept Poché — who started the season opener — on schedule to pitch Friday because of the weather forecast.

“Even though we announced the rotation initially, we knew it was a possibility the forecast for Sunday would necessitate that Poché goes on Friday,” Mainieri said. “So we made sure that his schedule stayed the same.”

So Poché will pitch on normal rest. He had an 80-pitch limit for his start last week, and he said he doesn’t know if that’ll be the same this time. With LSU playing a doubleheader, it might be necessary for him to eat some innings to preserve the bullpen.

“It just comes down to how I’m feeling,” he said. “Last game I felt fine, and I could’ve gone as long as possible. But it’s still early. The season is long, so we don’t want to push it too much.”

Mainieri said all of his relievers will be available for the weekend. He said the doubleheader won’t affect his pitching plans, and it may actually present an opportunity for some of his back-end guys like Zac Person or Jesse Stallings to pitch two days in a row, a good test for conference play.

DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES


LSU’s committed four errors in each of the last two games, and that’s the thing that has Mainieri most concerned. Five of those errors have come from second and third base, two of the Tigers’ bigger defensive question marks entering the season.

The Tigers have a combined .943 fielding percentage through four games, compared to last season’s total of .976.

“We just can’t do that,” Mainieri said. “It’s not our style of baseball. We’ve always taken pride in our defense…We just need to have consistent defense. We’ve got to tighten things up a little bit.”

Mainieri said he won’t make any changes to his defensive alignment though. Danny Zardon will remain the starting third baseman with freshman Bryce Jordan getting opportunities as well. Kramer Robertson will continue to man second, and Conner Hale can still slide over if Chris Chinea is playing first.

Mainieri just wants to see more consistency.

“You learn those [defensive] instincts a little more as time goes on,” Mainieri said. “But they have to apply that stuff. So when you think about who you’re going to play, who you can believe in, it’s which kids take all those coaching points and can apply them in the heat of the game.”


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