LSU may be without the services of sophomore center fielder Zach Watson heading into the weekend’s ranked matchup with Texas at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri didn’t have much of an update on the star outfielder other than that he remained questionable for the series opener Friday night. Watson was a late scratch from the lineup Wednesday after he “tweaked” his oblique during batting practice.
“I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine,” Mainieri said. “First of all I don’t have an update on how he feels today. I haven’t even asked, purposely, because I don’t want to know. I don’t want to keep asking him every 10 minutes. I was told last night by our trainer that we probably wouldn’t know until Friday.”
LSU could be looking at a game-time decision on the availability of one of its best players against the Longhorns. The lateral torque of swinging a bat presents the biggest problem for the muscle.
Mainieri did reveal that practicing Thursday wasn’t a pre-requisite for Watson to suit up on Friday night, but he’ll defer to the opinion of trainer Cory Couture and see how Watson feels Friday.
“If he can go we’ll play him, and if he can’t, he won’t,” the coach said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Should Watson not be able to go, the Tigers do have the luxury of some outfield flexibility thanks to a torrid start with the bat from Beau Jordan and the senior’s willingness to play anywhere.
Jordan made the start in right field against UNO on Wednesday night as Antoine Duplantis shifted over to center in place of Watson. It was only Jordan’s second career start in right field — the other one came during his freshman season in 2015 — but he handled it without incident.
“If Coach wants to put me out there, I’m going to bust my butt to do whatever I have to do to help the team win,” Jordan said.
The way Jordan has hit in the early going has made it nearly impossible for Mainieri to not put him in the lineup, regardless of what happens with Watson.
Jordan is LSU’s leading hitter (.414) through four games and has more than twice as many total bases (14) as anyone on the team. With three doubles and two home runs, he’s already nearly halfway to eclipsing the number of extra-base hits (11) he had in 55 games last season.
The power surge isn’t rooted in a new launch angle or anything that fancy, but rather the veteran working with new hitting coach Sean Ochinko to shorten his swing and building off a strong showing in the College World Series. Jordan went 4-for-20 with a home run and four RBI in Omaha.
“Beau has really swung the bat well,” Mainieri said. “Now he’s a senior. There’s something about those seniors. He’s a confident guy and he’s having really good batting practice. I think his swing is shorter than it once was. He’s locked in right now riding a hot streak, and hopefully that’ll continue.”
LSU is counting on as much heading into a high-profile series without shortstop Josh Smith and possibly Watson.