Austin Bain will miss all of fall practices, but Jake Latz is expected to return.
Those were two of the more notable updates on injured LSU baseball players made by Paul Mainieri at a Thursday press conference to discuss the 2016 roster.
Bain underwent surgery last week to remove Bennett lesions, similar to “bone spurs,” in his throwing shoulder. Mainieri said he believes Bain might have struggled with that during last season.
Doctors didn’t discover them until after Bain pitched in one summer league game. He happened to strike out nine batters in four innings in that contest, but he’s been shut down since.
“We don’t think it’s a serious type of surgery,” Mainieri said. “It’s something that’ll keep him out of fall practice, but he should be ready to go by January.”
Latz, who missed all of his freshman season, has started throwing again. Mainieri observed him throw a 75-pitch simulated game recently. He said his velocity was up to 89-91 mph early but tapered off as the simulation progressed. Mainieri did notice that Latz’s curveball and changeup improved the longer he pitched.
“He was gassed out there because he hasn’t thrown that many pitches in a long time,” Mainieri said. “But everything we saw was very encouraging.”
Latz will pitch in at least two games for a summer league team near his hometown of Chicago, where he’s spent his entire summer. Mainieri said Latz will take a break after those two outings until fall practice starts.
Mainieri expects him to be able to go “full blast” by then.
Reliever Hunter Devall may be sidelined with a foot injury he suffered it when someone stepped on it while celebrating LSU’s walkoff victory against Texas A&M in late April. Devall was able to pitch several times after injuring his foot, but Mainieri said he suffered a relapse this summer.
“We were afraid he’d have to have surgery,” Mainieri said. “But we think we’re going to avoid it. We don’t know how much he’ll be able to pitch in the fall.”
Jake Fraley is the only returning starter from last season's lineup
Jake Fraley hasn’t been able to play regularly this summer because of a nagging finger injury he suffered in LSU’s final game of the season. Mainieri doesn’t think it will linger into the fall though.
“I expect he’ll come back ready to go and be a leader of our team,” Mainieri said.
Fraley will be the only starting position player to return from last year’s team. Mainieri said he’ll be considered to replace Andrew Stevenson in center field, but did cite Fraley’s history of tight hamstring muscles as something that may prevent that.
“I’m a little concerned about him staying healthy,” Mainieri said. “He has a propensity to get tight hamstrings. When you’re in center and have to cover a lot more ground, I get a little bit nervous about losing him.”
2016 may finally be the season that Troy Whitty, a member of LSU’s 2013 signing class, makes his debut. Whitty has missed all of his first two seasons on campus thanks to a shoulder injury.
He’s returned to the mound this summer and has pitched well for the Acadiana Cane Cutters.
“He’s so resilient. He just doesn’t give up,” Mainieri said. “He’s throwing the ball well. Alan Dunn said he’s improved and made a big jump. He wants to come back to LSU and stick his nose in the fight.”
One last injury to note — signee Cody Ducote has a sore throwing arm, so he’s only served as a designated hitter this summer. The signee from Delgado could start at one of the corner outfield spots next season, but his defense comes second to his bat.
“He’s the guy I’m most excited about as a pure hitter,” Mainieri said. “[His junior college coach] thinks he’s the best hitter from New Orleans since Mason Katz.”