LSU will host Cal this weekend for the finale series of non-conference play, which means Paul Mainieri has one more chance to experiment with his rotation before Southeastern Conference play begins.
The coach took that opportunity by replacing one heralded freshman with another.
Cole Henry will get the start on Saturday in place of Landon Marceaux, Mainieri announced. Marceaux will pitch out of the bullpen Friday night and start next Tuesday at Northwestern State.
“No. 1, I wanted to give Cole Henry a start,” Mainieri explained. “Landon is going to be a great pitcher for us, and I’m certainly not giving up on him. He very well could be back in the weekend rotation against Kentucky, but he needs another experience of pitching on the road in a hostile environment.
Henry earned this opportunity in part because of the composure he showed in such an environment last weekend. He held Texas to one run and struck out four over 3.1 innings of strong relief in a tie game on Sunday.
It’s that composure that LSU likes about the 6-foot-4 Alabama native — that, his mid-90s fastball and a sharp breaking ball. He’s pitched to a 4.15 ERA over 8.2 innings across four appearances (including one start).
“Cole has a lot of attributes you love in a pitcher,” Mainieri said. “Obviously his stuff speaks for itself … Plus he’s got a very calm and cool demeanor, much like an Aaron Nola. I’m not putting him in Aaron Nola’s class yet, but he doesn’t get too out of whack when things don’t go good. He doesn’t get too high when things are going good. This will be a very big challenge for him on Sunday.”
Henry attributes that even-keel demeanor to some tough love from his father, Jeffrey, who used to heckle him a bit on the mound to prepare him for life on the road.
“Ever since little league my dad was pretty tough on me, just chirping and all that stuff,” Henry said. “Just trying to get in my head because he knew it would help me out later on in life. Now I get on the mound and block out everything but me and the catcher. Nothing really gets to me.”
So what kind of stuff did father chirp son about?
“It’s just my dad,” Henry laughed. “You’d have to meet him to understand. He just taught me from a young age you can’t let other people get in your head.”
Marceaux, who rooms with Henry, wasn’t discouraged by the demotion. He said he understood Mainieri’s decision, supported Henry fully and knew what he needed to work on after lasting just four outs in Austin last Saturday.
The rookie cited a lack of focus and an inability to put hitters away with two strikes as the reason why his start went so wrong. Marceaux didn’t blame pitching on the road for the first time, but he acknowledged he couldn’t get his mind right.
“Being distracted,” Marceaux said. “My focus just wasn’t there. I’d go up 0-2 and ended up walking three guys. Just a lack of focus. Not being able to zone in.”
It’s unclear what Marceaux will have to prove in order to get back into the weekend rotation, or what Henry will have to do if he wants to stick, but the situation appears a bit fluid at this point.
Mainieri seemed to make it pretty clear that nobody’s job is secure with SEC play set to begin a week from Friday night.
“It may be only the first of some changes,” Mainieri said. “We’ll see.”