Bryce Jordan hasn’t caught in a meaningful game since his senior season at Barbe High School.
Three years and one knee reconstruction surgery later he’ll be behind the plate as LSU opens up the 2018 season against Notre Dame on Friday night.
Jordan will start at catcher and play most of the weekend back there while true freshman Nick Webre takes over at first base, LSU coach Paul Mainieri told Tiger Rag on Wednesday.
The lineup shakeup comes as Mainieri and the staff decided starting catcher Hunter Feduccia (broken left hand) won’t be available to catch this weekend. Feduccia could pinch hit some time this weekend, Mainieri said, but that would likely only happen in the event of an emergency.
The injury to Feduccia left LSU with only Nick Coomes and Braden Doughty as healthy catchers, which prompted Mainieri to approach Jordan about going back behind the plate. Jordan said his knee felt “100 percent,” so LSU began putting him through drills.
He was a catcher coming out of Barbe, but LSU had Kade Scivicque and Mike Papierski to do the catching his freshman season, Papierski and Jordan Romero his sophomore season and then Jordan suffered a serious knee injury last spring.
“We really never needed him to go back and catch,” Mainieri said. “But on my own personal depth chart, which I don’t release to the public, I’ve always had Bryce Jordan listed as kind of an emergency catcher.”
The injury to Feduccia coupled with Mason Doolittle’s transfer this winter made Mainieri uneasy about his depth behind the plate. He was also unsure if Coomes could catch 27 innings in a weekend even after making a full recovery from offseason hip surgery.
Jordan impressed in some catching drills and “threw better than anybody” when LSU had him catch in an intra-squad scrimmage. He threw two base runners out in a seven-inning scrimmage and caught pain free for three consecutive days.
Then Coomes got hit by a pitch in his throwing elbow during a scrimmage, which kept him from throwing during practice Wednesday. That’s when the staff huddled and decided to play it safe and name Jordan the starting catcher.
“How do I know if he’s going to be ready by Friday?” Mainieri posited. “So I’m not going to wait until game day to name a catcher. Bryce will catch on opening day, and if Coomes feels healthy, he’ll catch Saturday.”
The other factor in the decision is the emergence of Webre. The freshman led the Tigers in hitting (.344), hits (11) and doubles (5) through 11 spring scrimmages and tied for the team lead in home runs (2) and runs batted in (7).
LSU has been groomed Webre as a potential starting player this fall, and with Jordan temporarily moving to catcher, a potential landing spot opened up to get his bat in the lineup.
“Nick Webre has earned a starting role on our team,” Mainieri said. “He raked all fall and this spring he’s outhit everybody on the team. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get him in the lineup, and first base is the natural place to put him. At this point he’s the everyday first baseman.”
BAIN A “STRONG CONSIDERATION” TO START AT SECOND BASE
Senior Austin Bain resumed playing infield this fall because LSU didn’t have enough healthy bodies to fill out two full teams for intra-squad games.
“He’s had kind of a star-crossed career,” Mainieri said. “His freshman year he was in the starting rotation. His sophomore and junior years he kind of regressed as a pitcher and didn’t help us much. And I knew he could really hit in high school, so I told (LSU pitching coach) Alan Dunn let’s have him play second base on days he doesn’t pitch.”
Now, after shaking off the rust at the dish, the former two-way player has hit his way into consideration for meaningful playing time as the season is set to start this weekend.
Bain has come on as a hitter this spring. He’s consistently homered in batting practice sessions of late, Mainieri said, and he’s been solid at second base. He apparently smoked one off Zack Hess in a recent scrimmage and doubled home two runs on Tuesday night, giving the staff something to think about.
“So now he’s a strong consideration,” Mainieri said. “I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do, but there’s a good chance he’s going to play one of the games at second base.”
WALK-UP MUSIC REVEALED
The hair may be gone. but Zack Hess will still be taking the mound with ‘Wild Thing’ blaring through the speakers at Alex Box Stadium this fall. Here’s the full list of walk-up music as announced by the school on Wednesday.
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) February 14, 2018
MAINIERI NAMES TEAM USA STAFF
Mainieri announced the staff that’ll assist him as he coaches Team USA this summer, and there’s plenty of familiar faces.
Long-time Mainieri confidant Jim Hendry (New York Yankees front office executive) and former assistants Brian O’Connor (Virginia HC) and Cliff Godwin (Eastern Carolina HC) are all on the staff, as well as current St. Thomas coach Jorge Perez. Mainieri began his coaching career at St. Thomas.
The LSU coach will also be bringing along current LSU manager and former player Trent Forshag, who’ll serve as the bullpen coach and catcher for Team USA.
“It’s a reward for him and I thought it would be a great experience,” Mainieri said. “We needed a bullpen catcher and he does a tremendous job for our team here.”