Pitching, catching plans remain up in the air for Friday against Utah Valley
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
On coach’s orders, Antoine Duplantis took the scenic route to the field for practice on Tuesday morning.
Upon arrival, the freshman right fielder and his fellow teammates were instructed to exit the locker room through the LSU baseball office — as opposed to the customary route through the clubhouse — and stroll around the concourse to the visitor’s entrance.
“It’s kind of cool, you don’t get to see that Hall-of-Fame room too much,” Duplantis said. “I don’t really get to see that side of the park too much.”
Paul Mainieri, often a proponent of over-preparedness, shifted his team across the diamond to work out of the third-base dugout in the lead up to the Baton Rouge Regional. His Tigers figure to be the road team at least once this weekend, and he wanted them to be prepared.
“Try not to leave any rocks unturned,” Mainieri smiled on a sweltering late May afternoon. “It is a little awkward when you come to your own ballpark and can’t do the things you’re used to doing. Maybe it’s not that important. It’s a little thing, but I try to never leave anything to chance.”
Duplantis added: “He’s all about that. He doesn’t want things to feel awkward for you.”
Suffice to say, this is the time of year when the attention to detail is ratcheted up on the little things. And Mainieri, staying with that theme, chose to put off making any decision that could give Utah State a scouting report ahead of Friday’s regional opener, scheduled for 2 p.m.
Mainieri declined to announce a starting pitcher for Utah State or beyond, though he strongly hinted it’d be either Jared Poche’, Alex Lange or Caleb Gilbert.
“Probably one of three guys,” Mainieri said, reiterating he saw no benefit to making his pitching plan known ahead of time. Mainieri will announce a pitching plan on Thursday, he said.
The more interesting question remains who will be behind the dish catching Friday afternoon’s starter, whoever that may be.
Mike Papierski, who lost his starting job to Jordan Romero at midseason, started the final three games of the SEC Tournament run. He picked up his first hit and RBI since late April in a three-RBI performance against Mississippi State.
The switch-hitting backstop’s resurgence has effectively re-opening the catching battle as Romero has gone through a pronounced offensive slump (0-for-18 before his pinch-hit single on Wednesday night) and defensive struggles culminated in allowing six stolen bases to Tennessee in Hoover.
“The opportunity (for Papierski) came back around, and I think he took advantage of it,” Mainieri said. “I don’t want to make this to sound cold, but it continues to be an earn-it business. The guys that earn it are going to be in there, and that can change from day to day.”
Mainieri also expressed doubt about one catcher being able to shoulder the load through the weekend given the heat. LSU practiced early Tuesday in part to get acclimated, and the forecast is for steamy weather all the way through the weekend.
“I’m not exactly sure what we’re going to do,” Mainieri said. “I’m sure we’re going to count on both of them. We’ll think it out for these next two days.”