Injury To Ace Brings Questions To Top-Ranked Tigers
LSU Preseason All-American pitcher Anthony Ranaudo missed his start last Friday when LSU hosted William & Mary. The 6’7 junior has been experiencing discomfort on the outside bone of his right elbow. Following is an update on the situation from today’s Baton Rouge Advocate by Collegebaseball360.com contributor Randy Rosetta. HERE’S a link to Rosetta’s original story from last week.
BATON ROUGE, LA–Early-season baseball involves a lot of trial and error, especially with pitchers who are trying to carve out roles for the rest of the season.
For top-ranked LSU, there was a different wrinkle last weekend against William & Mary when ace Anthony Ranaudo sat the series out with a sore elbow, shuffling a starting rotation that still hasn’t completely taken shape yet.
The end results after the Tigers’ second three-game sweep in as many weeks were a mixed bag, with the two starters who threw best on the first weekend of the season running into trouble and a first-time starter delivering a solid outing.
LSU (7-0) had to scratch and claw in every game against the Tribe, in part because neither junior Austin Ross nor sophomore Joey Bourgeois lasted into the sixth inning after promising starts for both.
Ross was perfect through 41/3 innings Saturday in his debut as the opening-game starter in Ranaudo’s absence and there were no hints of looming trouble.
But W&M left fielder Stephen Arcure cranked a 2-and-0 fastball out of the ballpark with one out in the fifth and Ross staggered. He allowed back-to-back singles and walked the eight-hole hitter to load the bases, notched his seventh strikeout and then surrendered a two-out, two-run double to leadoff hitter Ryan Brown on a full-count pitch.
Those four runs were part of an 8-0 assault by the Tribe that forced the Tigers to generate their biggest rally in 22 years, which got Ross off the hook.
Then on Sunday, Bourgeois wasn’t as sharp as he was in his first start, but his tenacity allowed him to cruise through four innings without giving up a run.
That changed abruptly when nine-hole hitter Derek Lowe slammed the first pitch of the fifth inning over the fence in right-center field. Bourgeois walked the next two Tribe hitters, gave up an RBI single and exited after retiring cleanup hitter Chris Forsten on a sacrifice bunt.
“I was a little disappointed with Ross and Bourgeois with giving up the big innings,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “They looked so dominant for four innings, both of them. We’ve got to get our arms around that and see why that happed.”
Mainieri said he doesn’t mind his pitchers giving up solo home runs, but he expects them to bounce back.
“The thing I didn’t like especially is that they both gave up a home run and things started to unravel after that,” Mainieri said. “You like to see a guy re-assert himself and show he’s the boss out there.
“If those two guys want to pitch at a real high level in this league, that’s what they’re going to have to learn to do.”
What Mainieri didn’t overlook was how the current No. 1 and 2 starters on the LSU staff threw before their problems.
Neither Ross nor Bourgeois allowed a run in their first starts of the season. Ross’s scoreless streak reached 91/3 innings before allowing the homer and Bourgeois’ stretch without getting touched was 10 frames.
Both extended their pitch counts: Ross from 56 to 79 and Bourgeois from 78 to 90.
“The first four innings both of them threw was great,” Mainieri said. “They both dominated for four innings, so I know they have the ability to pitch effectively at this level. We just need to somehow get them to focus and make better pitches and not fall behind on hitters when they get to the middle innings.”
While those two left some room for improvement, freshman left-hander Jordan Rittiner turned in a solid first start.
He threw 91 pitches in a 7-4 LSU triumph in the series finale and withstood a shaky first inning when a pickoff play allowed W&M to score two unearned runs before Rittiner had recorded an out.
Another freshman, Mike Reed, logged the final three innings to get a save after a rocky debut the week before when he gave up four runs in 12/3 innings in the Tigers’ 25-8 romp past Centenary.
Those two, along with junior Mitch Mormann, were the highlights of the series and give Mainieri and pitching coach David Grewe some middle-relief options heading into a stretch of nine games in 11 days starting against Pepperdine on Thursday.
“Reed threw fastballs for strikes had some good changeups,” Mainieri said. “He pitched the way I think he’s capable of.
“With the young guys, you’ve got to keep running them out there. You’re sitting on the edge of your seat when they’re pitching because they haven’t proved yet over a long period of time what they’re going to do. You watch them develop by running them out there. We’ve got a lot of innings to pitch next weekend and the week after that, so these guys are going to have pitch for us.”
Meanwhile, Ranaudo won’t be throwing any time soon.
Mainieri said the 6-foot-7 right-hander will get checked this week and may throw some on the side, but isn’t likely to pitch again until the LSU entertains Kansas on March 12-14.
“My guess is he’s probably not going to be ready to pitch this weekend,” Mainieri said. “I’m playing it in my mind that he’s not going to be ready to be pitch and Kansas will be the target.”
One more No. 1
LSU climbed into the top spot in another poll Monday and is No. 1 in three of the four rankings.
The Tigers were No. 2 in the USA Today/ESPN poll, voted on by coaches, when it was released in the preseason. That poll did not update last week when LSU moved to No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association polls.
The coaches elevated the Tigers to No. 1 with their newest poll. LSU remains No. 2 in the Baseball American poll behind Virginia.
(Baton Rouge Advocate)