LSU’s rough start to the season just got exponentially worse.
Shortstop Josh Smith has been diagnosed with a stress reaction in his vertebrate and will be out at least a month, LSU coach Paul Mainieri announced Tuesday. Freshman Hal Hughes will play shortstop in his absence.
“He’s going to be on the sidelines for quite a while,” Mainieri said. “We were all very disappointed and Josh was very emotional when I broke the news to him.”
It’s unclear when the injury occurred. Smith felt some stiffness in his back this past weekend and LSU sent him for a precautionary MRI on Monday. The diagnosis came back two hours before LSU hit the practice field Tuesday, and Mainieri broke the news to his team in a meeting before practice.
The sophomore will be held out of all athletic activities for four weeks to rest the injury, at which point he’ll be re-examined. If healed, he’ll then begin rehab work to re-strengthen his core and work his way back into baseball activities.
LSU will make due in the meantime with Hughes, a slick-fielding rookie that Mainieri has been high on since the fall. The coach doesn’t expect much of a drop of defensively if there is one at all, but Hughes will likely hit at the bottom of the order whereas Smith batted leadoff.
“I’m very excited about Hal Hughes and I think he can step in and do a tremendous job for us defensively,” Mainieri said. “Now he’s not the offensive force that Josh is, of course — not many are — but Hal can be a productive offensive player. He can handle the bat.”
For his part, Hughes said all the right things. He had lunch with Smith earlier in the day Tuesday and said he’s one of his closest friends on the team.
“I feel terrible for Josh, but at the same time I’m ready to go,” Hughes said. “I’m excited to get my opportunity and I’m going to try to run with it.”
Mainieri said he hadn’t yet made a decision on who’ll take Smith’s place atop the lineup, though he had some ideas. Chris Reid and Jake Slaughter could also play shortstop if needed, the coach said.