The injury bug that ravaged LSU’s 2018 season before it even began has lingered into the fall, much to the chagrin of Paul Mainieri.
LSU is currently without eight pitchers due to a variety of injuries, Mainieri said, and the staff has decided to shut down a handful of key arms for the remainder of the fall in the interest of being precautions.
“Between the rain every day and the injuries that we’ve had, this has been the most unique falls that I’ve ever had,” Mainieri said. “But we’re dealing with it.”
We’ll take the injury rundown in descending order of severity.
Right-handed pitcher Nick Storz a rare underwent surgery to his shoulder/lateral area and could miss all of the 2019 season, Mainieri said.
Doctors think it’ll be seven-to-eight months before Storz can resume throwing, which would put his chances of pitching this season in serious doubt.
“It was a very complicated surgery that doesn’t happen frequently,” Mainieri said. “You know how there’s Tommy John surgery? They want to call this the Jake Peavy surgery because he’s the most well-known pitcher who has come back from the surgery and had success.”
Storz missed most of last season due to a lat injury that was causing him to feel soreness in his shoulder. LSU hoped PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatment this summer would be enough to remedy the issue, but a setback in September made surgery necessary.
The hulking hurler came to LSU with plenty of hype and was billed as a potential top-of-the-rotation ace, but health has been a recurring problem since he had shoulder surgery to remove a bone spur last fall.
Catcher Saul Garza underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will be out for three-to-four months. Mainieri hopes he could be swinging a bat again by early January and be back behind the plate in February.
Garza blocked a pitch in the dirt last week and felt his knee lock up, Mainieri said. An MRI revealed the torn meniscus, and surgery was complicated by an old tear that had never fully healed.
“That’s why it’s a three-to-four month get back instead of a four-to-five week get back,” Mainieri explained.
LSU is already thin at catcher. Freshman CJ Willis can’t throw until the spring due to an injury from his high school days and Bryce Jordan, LSU’s emergency catcher last season, retired earlier this fall.
Those injuries leave just Brock Mathis and walk-on Braden Doughty to handle various scrimmages behind the plate. LSU is planning to work out freshman Drew Bianco at catcher in the days to come.
Shortstop Josh Smith, seemingly home free from his back injury, injured his shoulder diving for a ball on Monday afternoon.
LSU feared structural damage, Mainieri said, but the injury has been diagnosed as a bruise of his rotator cuff. He’s expected to be out at least a week, meaning it’s unlikely he’ll play in Sunday’s exhibition game against UNO.
“It could have been worse, though,” Mainieri said. “It’s actually good news.”
Out of precaution, Zack Hess and Todd Peterson have been shut down for the remainder of the fall after pitching on Monday. Landon Marceaux, Devin Fontenot and Eric Walker will make an appearance or two apiece in the coming week before shutting it down.
“Just to play it safe,” Mainieri said. “They can’t get injured if they’re on the bench.”
Here’s a rundown of the other various injuries LSU is dealing with:
– Sophomore right-handers Ma’Khail Hilliard and AJ Labas still have not thrown this fall, and at this point it is unlikely that either pitches before the spring. Both missed the NCAA Tournament due to shoulder soreness. “My expectation is they’re not going to pitch at all this fall,” Mainieri said.
– Freshman right-hander Rye Gunter has been out with a stress fracture in his back. He’s been rehabbing, Mainieri said, but it’s uncertain when he’ll return to the mound.
– Freshman right-hander Cole Henry has been shut down for the fall due to a stress reaction in his humerus (upper arm).
– Freshman left-hander Easton McMurray (undisclosed) and sophomore right-hander Trent Vietmeier (undisclosed) are the closest to returning. Vietmeier is scheduled to pitch in a scrimmage for the first time on Tuesday afternoon.
– LSU is already without senior right-hander Caleb Gilbert, who underwent shoulder surgery this summer, and junior right-hander Matt Beck, who was shut down due to elbow soreness.