The already-thin LSU infielder is getting even thinner.
Second baseman Brandt Broussard has been diagnosed with a broken thumb and will be sidelines for 3-to-5 weeks, LSU coach Paul Mainieri announced on Monday afternoon.
“I’m concerned,” Mainieri said before a trip to the hand specialist confirmed the coach’s fears.
Losing Broussard is a big blow to a team that’s already been hit hard by the injury bug. Broussard is LSU’s leading hitter (.363) this season and the Tigers will miss the speed and ability to handle the bat that he brought to the No. 2 hole in the lineup.
The injury occurred when Broussard got hit by a pitch on Friday night in Nashville that an umpire ruled to be a foul ball. The junior remained in the starting lineup on Saturday, but he re-aggravated the injury when he rolled over on the thumb while beginning a double play.
“The next day when he woke up his thumb was so sore that he couldn’t put his glove on his hand, and he certainly couldn’t swing a bat,” Mainieri said.
LSU was already exploring contingency plans if Broussard for a makeshift infield before the diagnosis came back on Broussard. Austin Bain moved over from first base on Sunday with Bryce Jordan taking his spot at first. Jake Slaughter, a high school shortstop, is also an option at second base.
It doesn’t sound likely that LSU will shift Chris Reid from third to second base due to a lack of lateral quickness. Mainieri said LSU was also planning to work freshman outfielder Daniel Cabrera at first base to see if he would play there with Bain at second base.
“We’re looking at all different options right now,” Mainieri said. “Guys are out there working out a little bit today to see how that looks.”
LABAS TO START AGAINST CAJUNS
Freshman AJ Labas will start against UL-Lafayette in Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic in Metairie on Tuesday night, the coach announced.
“He’s going to pitch as long as he’s pitching well,” Mainieri added. “Hopefully he’s going to give us a good outing, continue to develop as a starting pitcher and give us a chance to beat a really good team tomorrow.”
Labas didn’t pitch this weekend against the Commodores and will be on a full starter’s complement in terms of a pitch count. He’ll be backed up by a well-rested bullpen coming off a weekend in which LSU only used three relievers.
“LITTLE BIT OF A SETBACK”
Infielder Josh Smith suffered a “little bit of a setback” last week as he works his way back from a stress reaction in his vertebrate, Mainieri said.
The sophomore felt pain in his back early last week that’s slowed the rehabilitation process. He played catch pain-free later in the week, which is a good sign, but he’s no longer slated to begin hitting on Tuesday, as was the original plan.
“He had a little bit of a setback last week,” Mainieri said. “His back was bothering him a little bit more than we thought it would. So we expected that he would’ve started hitting by today, but he’s not going to.”
Instead Smith will continue to do core strengthening workouts, isometric back exercises and play catch until he demonstrates he can torque laterally without pain. LSU plans to recreate the motion that caused the setback at some point this week in hopes that Smith can rotate without pain. Until then, swinging a bat remains out of the question.
“I’d say the Texas A&M series is doubtful now, but we’ll see,” Mainieri said. “He just hasn’t done anything twisting his trunk yet. That’ll be the big test.”
ONE STEP FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK
Freshman Nick Storz has once again been dealing with shoulder soreness and hasn’t thrown since making his LSU debut last Wednesday, Mainieri said.
The debut itself was promising, but three days of shoulder soreness followed for the highly-touted power arm. Storz will go see a doctor and be re-evaluated later this week, per Mainieri.
“I wish I could give you more than that, but that’s all I know,” Mainieri said.
LSU IN THE POLLS
LSU dropped multiple spots in all four of the major polls after a 2-2 week in which it dropped at road series at Vanderbilt, a consensus top-10 team in all the polls. Talk about a tough crowd.
Here’s where LSU stands in each of the newly-released polls. As always, last week’s ranking is in parenthesis.
D1Baseball 21 (19)
Baseball America 21 (18)
Perfect Game 20 (16)
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper 19 (15)