By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU got a bit of good news to begin the week.
Closer Hunter Newman played catch Monday without pain for the first time since being shut down with a back injury two weeks ago, Paul Mainieri said.
The right-handed reliever is now considered “day by day” and could conceivably be active when LSU hosts Texas A&M for a three-game series set to begin Thursday night at Alex Box Stadium, the coach said.
Newman threw for the first time Sunday, then played catch again and threw what it called a “short box,” which is essentially a bullpen session off the front of the mound.
“(He) didn’t feel any pain at all in his back or his legs,” the coach told reporters Monday. “The trainer tapped his ankle for a little bit more support, where that nerve runs down the leg. So (we’ll) see how he feels tomorrow. And then if he feels good again tomorrow, we’ll try to progress on Wednesday, and we’ll see how he does Wednesday. And if everything goes well, who knows? Maybe he can be active this weekend. We’ll see.”
Newman has missed the first two weekends of Southeastern Conference play. Sophomore Caleb Gilbert has nailed down three saves in as many chances while filling in in the interim.
How Newman progresses through the week will affect how Mainieri handles his pitching staff. For instance, if Newman is trending toward being available, Mainieri said he’d be more likely to extend Zack Hess as he starts against Tulane on Tuesday night at the Box. If he wakes up in pain, Hess will likely be needed in the bullpen again this weekend on a short week.
“I’ll know early how Newman feels, and I won’t know until we’re into the game how Hess is throwing – how efficient he is and what the situation of the game is,” Mainieri said. “I know we very badly want to win tomorrow night, so we’re going to do the best we can to give ourselves the best chance to do that.”
LSU – Fr. RHP Zack Hess (3-0, 3.09 ERA, 23.1 IP, 11 BB, 26 SO)
TU – Jr. RHP Chase Solesky (1-0, 2.03 ERA, 26.2 IP, 9 BB, 15 SO)
Tuesday, March 28 – 6:30 p.m. CT
Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La. (10,326)
LSU – No. 6 D1 Baseball; No. 8 USA Today; No. 9 Baseball America; No. 13 Collegiate Baseball
TU – unranked
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LSU leads Tulane, 180-128-3, in a series that began with the first intercollegiate athletic event in LSU history, a 10-8 victory for the Fighting Tiger baseball squad over Tulane in 1893. LSU has won 13 of its 18 meetings with Tulane over the past nine seasons, though the Green Wave won both matchups last season – a 7-1 victory on March 29 in Baton Rouge and a 4-1 win on April 26 in New Orleans. Paul Mainieri has a 13-7 mark against Tulane in his 11-season coaching tenure at LSU.