BATON ROUGE - LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said Tuesday that he will likely not announce his starting rotation for this weekend's best-of-three Super Regional against Mississippi State until Friday.
Game times are 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2, 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2 or ESPNU and to be announced if a Monday game is necessary. The winner advances to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn's weekend rotation during the Southeastern Conference season was usually junior right-hander Alex Lange, senior left-hander Jared Poche and freshman right-hander Eric Walker. That was tweaked a bit for the Southeastern Conference Tournament with success as the three pitched games two through four after second line starter Caleb Gilbert went in the opener. Then this past weekend in the NCAA Regional, Poche started the opener so Lange - the ace - could pitch the winner's bracket game. This also worked as Walker pitched brilliantly in the title game.
Mainieri took several questions from the USA Today Network on what he may do or is considering doing with his starters this weekend, depending on how things develop:
QUESTION: "What are some of the things you and Alan Dunn might be thinking about when you decide on who's pitching when, starting-wise, this weekend? That may be different from a regular SEC weekend?
MAINIERI (Laughing.): "I don’t think there’s really anything, Glenn. It’s really like a weekend series. The only difference is if you get beat the first two games, you don’t get Monday to win a game. You have to win two before you lose two, and I think we’ll approach it the same way we approach every weekend series. This is what we get conditioned to do in most of the weekends.”
QUESTION: But you said earlier you don't want to say who's starting?
MAINIERI: "I’m not going to say who’s starting until Friday probably. There’s no reason for me to do that. If Andy (Cannizaro, Mississippi State's coach) wants to tell me who he’s starting, then I’ll tell you who I’m starting. But at this point, I don’t think we need to. (Pause.) ... But I’m sure you can speculate. You’re an awesome speculator.” (Laughing.)
QUESTION: Well, Eric Walker has been pitching real well of late. So what if you lost the first game, and you don't pitch him in the second game, then Walker might not get to pitch>
MAINIERI: (Laughing.) "He may not get to pitch if we win the first two games either. You know, so you can look at it as the glass half full or half empty. (Pause.) ... Yeah, we’re going to go with the guys that I think give us the best chance to win. (Laughing.)”
QUESTION: Is it a nice problem to have? In the past, it was obvious who would pitch the first two games because there was a drop to the third starter. Now there isn't.
MAINIERI: “You remember all the criticism I got leading into the Regional. The people couldn’t understand why I was pitching Jared Poche in the first game and why we didn’t piece it together other pitchers. And my reasoning was that, if we were fortunate enough to win that game and then Alex Lange won on Saturday, and then Poche won on Sunday, then Eric Walker wouldn't get to pitch. Then he might not get to pitch again until Omaha. I didn’t want that to happen. So I think most people are pretty glad I pitched Walker now on Sunday now, aren’t they? Now everybody wants to know are you going to pitch him in the first two games. (Laughing.)
“But hey, Jared Poche’s a really good pitcher. I got a scoop for you. He’s got a chance to be the winningest pitcher in the history of our school (He has 37 wins. Record is 38.) So just because he had maybe what would be considered a sub-par performance his last game, doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on him. People should know I’m never going to give up on Jared Poche.”
QUESTION: What about mixing the starters strategically so your ace is not on their ace?
MAINIERI: “When we get to Omaha, there may be some strategy in wanting to use. Wait. I said, 'When we get to Omaha.' When we’re fortunate enough to get to Omaha, there may be some strategy in, 'Do you want to use Poche or Walker out of the bullpen in game one because the games are so spread out.' So, now, who’s better equipped to come out of the pen? Who would you prefer to have starting in the second game? So I think if we get to Omaha, those things you start thinking more about. But I think this weekend is not the weekend to do that. I think this weekend, we’ve had three great starters all year. All three of them have pitched magnificently probably 75 percent of the time, but 25 percent of the time they did not have a performance that’s not up standard.”
QUESTION: Would the pitcher you start in game two depend on whether or not you won game one? In other words, if LSU loses with Lange in game one, do you go with the hotter pitcher - Walker - in game two?
MAINIERI: "That’s a really good question. (Pause.) … And if I wanted to divulge that information, I already would have (Lots of laughing, then a pause.) ... I don’t think it changes anything, no. I’ll answer that question. I don’t think that will change anything.”
QUESTION: Wouldn't want a guy to think he's pitching one day, then suddenly he's pitching the next day? Does that matter?
MAINIERI: “What matters is the confidence I have in all three of those starting pitchers. I think whenever that pitcher goes out to the mound, I have confidence in all three of them. I think Alex Lange is a cut above because he has the pure stuff to be able to dominate a game. But if Eric Walker pitched the way he pitched the Sunday, and Jared Poche pitches the way he’s pitched several times this year, then all three of them have a good chance to pitch a great game for us. I’m going to show extreme confidence in all three of them.”