By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Bryce Jordan took live batting practice Monday for the first time since undergoing supposedly season-ending surgery
As it turns out, thanks to a faster-and-expected recovery, Paul Mainieri didn’t rule out the the prospect of LSU’s All-SEC designated hitter might contributing before the 2017 season ends after all.
It’s far from a sure thing, but Jordan could return to hit for the Tigers some time in the NCAA Tournament. Mainieri ruled him out for next weekend’s SEC Tournament in Hoover, but what about after that?
“Never know,” the coach smiled.
If medically cleared, which is far from certain, given Jordan hasn’t run or cut on his knee yet, the question then becomes if Jordan is willing to give up a redshirt and a year of eligibility for the possibility of seeing action during the postseason.
“We’ll see,” Jordan said. “It’s definitely not out of the picture, but it definitely depends on how I feel and if I get cleared by the doctor.
“It’s just whatever me, my parents, my coaches and the trainer want to do.”
Doctors initially told Jordan that he’d be out seven-to-eight months, he said. Under that timetable, it wasn’t even a certainty he’d be back in time for fall time. Instead the recovery process, to this point, has proceeded much quicker than anyone expected.
For Jordan, just stepping into the box against live pitching is the byproduct of nearly three months of grueling rehabilitation. The junior from Lake Charles has been working our four times a day and going through physical therapy five times a week, only taking weekends off to recover.
Jordan has been hitting off a tee and soft tosses in the batting cages in conjunction with his rehab work, he said Monday. Going against live velocity three months after surgery in itself is a remarkable recovery.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous, like, trying to get my quad strength back and my hamstring,” Jordan said of his rehab regiment. “It’s all about feeling comfortable again.”
The next step forward for Jordan will be running the bases, a substantial cover consider he hasn’t yet taken on any baseball activities beyond swinging a bat. He’s done some light jogging, he said, but rounding bases and changing directions will prove a far greater test for his surgically-repaired knee.
Only time will tell if Jordan can pull off the kind of postseason return Kyle Schwarber made for the Chicago Cubs in last year’s MLB World Series. But given the fact Mainieri has repeatedly bemoaned the lack of production from the crew of DHs who’ve tried to step up in Jordan’s stead, it’s worth watching.
PETERSON EMBRACING “AWESOME” OPPORTUNITY
Freshman right hander Todd Peterson will start Tuesday night against Northwestern State, and if all goes well, will be groomed as a fourth starter with an eye toward the postseason, Mainieri reaffirmed Monday.
“We’re going to let him run with it,” the coach said. “As long as he’s pitching well and the pitch count is within reason, he’s going to be out there.”
Peterson said he’s been “excited” about the opportunity since Mainieri gave him the news Saturday. He didn’t pitch in the Auburn series and threw a bullpen session after the series finale of LSU’s three-game sweep.
The rookie has pitched to a 4.39 ERA in 18 appearances (two starts) this season. He was used as a setup man early in the season but has seen only limited work since Southeastern Conference play began.
Still, Mainieri, tiring of mounting midweek losses — LSU is 7-6 in midweek games heading into the Northwestern State game, the season’s midweek finale — announced a change in the team’s pitching approach Saturday.
He elaborated on his reasoning, citing a bit of advice from Skip Bertman: “It’s taken us 12 midweeks to figure out the guys we can count on positively and negatively. So now it’s time to see if we can develop a fourth starter for the postseason. And I think Todd had a chance to be a starter for us next season as well. There’s some things he’s going to do to improve, but there’s three things I don’t doubt about him: He’s good a good arm, he’ll throw mostly strikes and he won’t be afraid.”
As far as how long Peterson can go, that’s not immediately clear. He hasn’t extended beyond three innings in any outing this season, but was a starting pitcher throughout his prep career.
“He told me I was going to have to start and he wanted me to go at least five strong hopefully,” Peterson said. “I’m always looking to go as deep as I can into games and give my team a chance to win.”
LANGE NABS HONOR
LSU ace Alex Lange is the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week, the league office announced Monday.
Lange twirled a complete-game, five-hit shutout as LSU blanked Auburn 4-0 Thursday, setting the tone for an emphatic sweep. He struck out nine and didn’t issue a walk en route to his second career complete-game shutout.
It was Lange’s second consecutive complete game. He became the first LSU pitcher to accomplish that feat since Aaron Nola in 2013. Lange also passed Nola for third place on LSU’s all-time strikeout list and surpassed 100 strikeouts for the season during the course of the gem.
LSU IN THE POLLS
The Tigers’ sweep of Auburn surged LSU into the top spot in the SEC West heading into next weekend’s showdown with Mississippi State for the divisional crown. It also moved LSU into the top 10 in all four of the major polls. (Previous week)
D1 Baseball 10 (11)
Baseball America 10 (15)
Perfect Game 8 (11)
College Baseball Newspaper 5 (10)