Mainieri puts Cotton in hybrid role
Coach plans for lefty to close Friday games and possibly start Sunday games
On the heels of naming Aaron Nola the opening-night starter and Ryan Eades the No. 2 starter last week, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri announced his intentions for the rest of his staff Monday.
The coach plans on using lefty Chris Cotton in a hybrid role, comparing it to the way he’s used Louis Coleman and Jared Bradford in previous seasons. If a save situation arises Friday, Mainieri will insert Cotton to preserve the victory. Then depending on the number of pitches he throws, the coach would like to bring him back for a start on Sunday.
“That would be the choice, but it he threw for example 25 or 35 pitches on Friday night, then I wouldn’t turn him around to start him. I’d probably use him out of the bullpen again… If he pitches 10 pitches and was able to get through an inning, he would be able to turn around. But we’ll see on Saturday how he felt [for a potential start Sunday]. It would be one of those things where we play it by ear. If he doesn’t pitch at all on Friday then he’ll start on Sunday,” Mainieri explained.
If Cotton is unable to start/pitch several innings on Sunday, fellow lefty Brent Bonvillain would be the next option - bumping Cotton back into a relief role.
“If Brent was the starting pitcher on Sunday, I’d feel very confident about him getting us to the 6th inning or so with a chance to win the game,” said the skipper. “He’s been throwing the ball extremely well. In fact a lot of guys on our team think he’s the toughest pitcher to hit on our staff.”
Then, depending on whether Bonvillain pitches this weekend, the coach will go with either he or Cody Glenn in LSU’s fourth game of the year next Tuesday versus Lamar. Bonvillian would bump Glenn if he doesn’t pitch versus Maryland.
As for LSU’s plans to close ballgames when Cotton wouldn’t be available, Mainieri will turn those reigns over to Kurt McCune at the start of the season although he doesn’t want to give him the title of closer just yet.
“I do think Kurt McCune is a very good candidate for this,” Mainieri said. “He’s developed a real good repertoire of pitches. He used to be a one-pitch guy but now he’s got a couple of good secondary pitches and I think he might be a guy that could handle a situation like that when you calculate in his repertoire as well as his experience and his poise and his competitiveness.”
Mainieri said this could be the long-term plan, but he wouldn’t commit to it as pitchers have every opportunity to pitch their ways into elevated roles during the course of the season.
Elsewhere on the diamond, Mainieri named Chris Sciambra the starter in center field (and leadoff hitter) and Mark Laird the starter in right field (and two-hole hitter) opening night. However, I’d still expect Sean McMullen and Andrew Stevenson to see plenty of time out there in the first 15 games or so as the four will continuously fight for playing time.
As for LSU’s DH, the Tigers will likely begin the season with Ty Moore getting the start against righties and Alex Edward getting the start versus lefties.