Tigers Adjusting To Early Injuries

Just two weeks into spring practice and the injury bug has already nibbled its way into the LSU depth chart.

Juco transfer and second baseman hopeful Rene Escobar broke his hand during the first practice and hasn't been able to work out with the team since. The coaching staff doesn't expect Escobar back until next month at the earliest.

Starting catcher Sean Ochinko also sat out a couple days of practice last week due to a sore elbow that was hit by a pitch earlier in the week. The 2007 freshman all-SEC did participate in workouts Friday night, but did not take part in hitting drills.

"We think Sean is going to be ok," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "He didn't do much all week. He (Ochinko) is still kind of recovering from an injury he suffered this summer at Cape Cod where he check swung and pulled a muscle. We're hoping he will be ok by the time Indiana comes into town. It's good that theses injuries happened this early so it gives us a little time to experiment with different positions. I don't think it will affect us dramatically."

The injury to Escobar has caused some reshuffling of the infield that could mean several different scenarios around the horn. Juco transfer Matt Clark was looking like the starter at first until the injury to Escobar. Mainieri practiced Clark some at third base, but said it is still not certain exactly where he will end up.

At the moment though, Mike Hollander is still the most likely option at third base, while freshman D. J. LeMahieu will be the short stop.

"Matt Clark played at third last year so we have been practicing him a little bit at third," Mainieri said. "Quite frankly I really don't know if we are going to stick with that. As of right now, I think we will probably stick with Hollander over there, just because Hollander and LeMahieu give us just a great left side of the infield. A lot of people think you have to be stronger up the middle but my opinion is that in college baseball third base is a critical position. Most hitters are right handed, most pitchers don't throw hard and you're swinging and aluminum bat. So I think that you have to have a really outstanding defensive player at that spot and Hollander is that guy."

Ultimately, Mainieri thinks outfielder Ryan Schimpf will end up at second base, which is where he played during his prep career at St. Paul in Covington.

"Last year I moved him (Schimpf) to the outfield because he just simply wasn't ready to play at second," Mainieri said. "But now he is older and mature and seems much more confident. I feel like he is ready."

If it works out that Schimpf does take over at second, it leaves an opening in the outfield that could possible be filled by two-sport athlete and true freshman Chad Jones.

"It really has been something to watch," Mainieri said. "He (Jones) is improving every day and you just can't deny what a tremendous athlete he is. His bat speed is incredible and he runs the bases great. He also plays the outfield great defensively. I'm going to play the guy that's going to give us the best chance to win and if he is one of the nine, he (Jones) is going to be in there."

Competing with Jones for that spot will be freshman Leon Landry and Johnny Dishon.

The pitching staff continues to make strides. The large group of freshmen hurlers have impressed Mainieri over the first couple of weeks and there is a possibility that one youngster may become a mid-week starter by March.

Ouachita Christian product Daniel Bradshaw, Shreveport native Austin Ross and the 6'7 right-hander Anthony Ranaudo are a few of the freshman catching the eye of the coaching staff.

"The nice thing about those three kids is that I will be able to pitch them during the week for the most part," Mainieri said. "I can see them possibly coming out of the bullpen on the weekends, too. Hopefully they continue to develop and someone will emerge and become a mid-week starter for us eventually."

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