Cam Sanders didn’t record an out in his LSU debut.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri is going to need a whole lot more than that out of his talented right-hander if the Tigers are going to navigate a five-game week with a limited pitching staff.
Sanders will get the ball on Tuesday night against Grambling on Tuesday night and go as long as he can before an already-tired bullpen eats up whatever is left of 18 midweek innings against Grambling and Southeastern.
“I’m hoping Cam Sanders will go out and pitch five or six innings against Grambling on Tuesday night,” Mainieri said. “Hope that’s not wishful thinking. He didn’t retire one batter in his first start, but we that’s what we need out of him. We need to save our bullpen.”
Said bullpen has been excellent for the most part through two weeks, but it’s been over-taxed already due to the ineffectiveness of LSU’s starting pitching. An LSU starter has only completed five innings once in seven games, which was Zack Hess’ six-inning outing on Friday night.
LSU starters have pitched only 24.2 innings in seven games, leaving 38.1 innings to be divvied up among the bullpen. That equates to asking the bullpen to pitch more than five innings a game, which is wholly unsustainable over the course of a long season.
The bullpen has been far more effective than the starters to this point, too. Four starters have allowed 30 earned runs in those 24.2 innings (10.95 ERA) while the bullpen has yielded 20 earned runs in its 38.1 innings (4.70 ERA).
Complicating matters further is the fact that LSU won’t be getting bullpen reinforcements this week. Mainieri said Friday that AJ Labas is no longer in line to make his debut Tuesday after a disappointing simulated game. There’s presently no set timetable for Labas or fellow freshman Nick Storz to return.
LSU was also without Trent Vietmeier this weekend due to a pulled groin, according to Mainieri. He’s allowed one earned run in 6.1 innings across two long relief outings.
All of that underscores the importance of LSU getting some length out of Sanders on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got 18 innings to play in the middle of the week,” Mainieri said. “We’ve got to get through them somehow. We’re going to hope Cam can go long for us and do what we’ve got to do to win on Tuesday night. Then see what we have left for Wednesday.”
LSU IN THE POLLS
The Tigers moved up in all four polls on the strength of a 3-1 week and a series victory against a ranked Texas club.
Here’s where LSU stands in the four major polls. The previous week’s ranking are in parenthesis:
D1Baseball 22 (23)
Baseball America 16 (22)
Perfect Game 14 (16)
College Baseball Newspaper 14 (15)