After two months on the shelf, Gavin Dugas isn’t going to have to wait much longer to make his return to the LSU lineup.
The freshman infielder has been medically cleared to play as LSU prepares to face Alabama this weekend, LSU coach Paul Mainieri announced, and the skipper strongly hinted that Dugas will be in the lineup for the series opener Friday night.
Mainieri has often lamented the loss to Dugas as LSU faced a barrage of left-handed pitching earlier this season. Alabama’s weekend rotation is all right-handed, but LSU is excited about what Dugas can do offensively nonetheless.
“He’s swinging the bat,” Mainieri said. “He’s been hitting the ball in batting practice with amazing authority, and we got him a few live at-bats, and he handled those well … I’m toying with idea of putting him in there as the DH while Watson isn’t playing and seeing what he’s got.”
Getting Dugas back is a bit of good news on a day dominated by the revelation that star pitcher Cole Henry is staying home due to elbow soreness.
The other bit of bad news is that Zach Watson, while recovered from his groin injury, is sick. He didn’t practice on Wednesday and will travel to Tuscaloosa separately from the team to avoid spreading his sickness.
Due to that illness, Mainieri said it’s unlikely Watson would play in Friday’s series opener and could be out all weekend. Giovanni DiGiacomo will continue to play center field in his stead, and Dugas could be the designated hitter while Watson remains out.
“The injury that he had, we think is ok now for him to be able to play,” Mainieri said. “It’s just that he’s caught a virus or the flu.”
On the bright side, Chris Reid appears set to return to the starting lineup at this base this weekend. Reid has done everything in practice except run at a full sprint, and as Mainieri put it, speed isn’t exactly the biggest piece of Reid’s game anyway.
The other development on the injury front is that sophomore infielder Hal Hughes will be limited this weekend coming off both a thumb injury and a collision. Hughes will likely only be used for defensive purposes, Mainieri said. “You play with the guys you have and you believe in them,” Mainieri said. “And hopefully they rise to the occasion.”