The LSU bullpen, one of the pleasant surprises of the early season, has already taken a bit of a different shape compared to recent seasons.
Specifically, the Tigers have a couple lefties working their ways into more critical roles with each quality outing they log.
Nick Bush and Taylor Petersen have looked impressive in recent appearances, including eating up 3.2 scoreless frames at Southeastern on Wednesday night, giving Paul Mainieri more matchup flexibility than he’s had in years.
Now a third-year sophomore, Bush has pitched well since serving up a grand slam in mop-up duty against Notre Dame. He was instrumental in securing the series win against Texas, and Mainieri divulged that the staff discussed stretching him out as a starter this week before ultimately deciding against it.
“I think the more times we can utilize (Bush), the better,” Mainieri said. “And the last two outs from Taylor Petersen have been cause for a lot of optimism. When I took the ball from him on (Wednesday), I told him right there on the mound ‘Man, you’re growing on me.’”
Petersen is a newcomer, but the Chandler-Gilbert CC transfer and Arizona native has made an impression by pounding the strike zone with a 90-92 mph fastball. Opponents are hitting just 1-for-12 against him this season with four strikeouts.
“I think Bush has thrown the ball extremely well,” LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn added. “I’ve been very pleased with how he’s throwing the ball. And Taylor Petersen has started to come on and showed why we brought him here. He’s a very valuable piece for us in the bullpen. Lefties that’re throwing with that type of velocity in the zone, you have a chance. Both those guys have helped us.”
The Tigers could soon be adding another talented southpaw to the mix. Freshman John Kodros threw his first bullpen session of the spring earlier this week after dealing with shoulder soreness. He was a two-time Collegiate Baseball First-Team All American selection in high school.
“Because he’s not pitching extended outings, I don’t think we’re going to have to wait long to get him back out there,” Mainieri said. “We might get him back fairly quickly as well.”
However, LSU will likely be without Brandon Nowak this weekend, Mainieri said. The lefty was recently diagnosed with mono.
WATSON MRI NEGATIVE
An MRI on LSU centerfielder Zach Watson came back negative for any structural damage, Mainieri said, confirming his oblique pain is muscular and not something more serious.
The sophomore has missed the past six games since he “tweaked” his oblique during batting practice prior to a game against UNO. LSU expected him back in the lineup by this point, which is why he was sent for the MRI on Thursday afternoon.
Mainieri didn’t offer a timeline for Watson’s return, saying only that he’d play once he tells the coaches that he feels healthy enough to do so. The coach confirmed Watson won’t play this weekend.
Mainieri shuffled his lineup a bit as LSU prepared to face Toledo left-hander Michael Jacob on Friday night. We wrote Thursday about LSU’s struggles hitting lefties, particularly in light of Watson’s absence.
Here’s the lineup:
- Antoine Duplantis (CF)
- Austin Bain (DH)
- Hunter Feduccia (C)
- Beau Jordan (LF)
- Bryce Jordan (1B)
- Jake Slaughter (3B)
- Daniel Cabrera (RF)
- Brandt Broussard (2B)
- Hal Hughes (SS)