LSU Tigers starting pitchers dominate

LSU won all four of its games last week as its starting pitchers didn’t allow an earned run in 27 innings.

“I’ll take that every week,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said.

Sophomore left-hander Cody Glenn provided bookend performances with seven-inning, three-hit shutouts against Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday and Nicholls State on Sunday.

In between, LSU’s one-two pitching punch of Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades overwhelmed Brown batters, who were just beginning their season this weekend. Both pitchers finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts and allowed just an unearned run.

“They’re just electric pitchers,” catcher Ty Ross said. “You see guys commanding their off-speed and their fastball so well. They’re basically shoving the ball down the hitters’ throats with the power and at the same time they have their finesse pitches.

“They use their breaking pitches in any counts and (pitching coach Alan Dunn) has those guys locked in.”

Auditions nearly over

Glenn, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in 19 innings this season, has made as strong a case as he could to be the Sunday starter when Southeastern Conference play begins in two weeks.

But fellow left-hander Brent Bonvillain, who has pitched well in two starts, will get another audition against Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday. After that, Mainieri and Dunn will finalize the rotation for SEC play.

“I promised (Glenn and Bonvillain) I would wait until after Tuesday (to decide),” Mainieri said. “Obviously, Cody showed well for himself.”

The pitcher who doesn’t start will be the primary left-hander out of the bullpen after closer Chris Cotton.

Outfield evaluation

Mainieri is also figuring out the outfield he will use to start Southeastern Conference play. Raph Rhymes, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, is entrenched in left, and freshman Mark Laird will also start.

But after beginning the season in right, Laird, the fastest player on the team, has started the last two games in center and made two very good plays Sunday.

“I’ve played (center field) my whole life until I got here,” Laird said. “I guess it’s like riding a bike.”

Sean McMullen made his second start of the season in right field Sunday as Chris Sciambra, whom Laird replaced in center, didn’t start, though he did pinch hit.

“I just wanted to give (McMullen) a game,” Mainieri said. “We had played 10 games before today, and he had just started one game. I’ve got to use some of these other guys to keep them sharp.”

Sciambra has two hits in his last 20 at-bats after grounding out Sunday, but Mainieri said that had little to do with his decision to take a look at McMullen, who went 1-for-4.

“Chris Sciambra is a very tough kid mentally,” Mainieri said. “I’m not worried about him. I just wanted to give McMullen a game, and I may give him another. Chris is going to be fine, and he’ll continue to be a vital part of our team.”

Laird, meanwhile, reached base 10 times in 14 plate appearances over the weekend, batting 5-for-9 and walking five times.

Mahtook off to minors

The Tigers will have continue the season without one of their regular followers in the stands. Former LSU All-America outfielder Mikie Mahtook has attended nearly all of the
early season games, but he leaves Tuesday for spring training.

Mahtook, a No. 1 draft choice of the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago, will report to the organization’s minor league complex in Port Charlotte, Fla.

He’s likely to start the season at Double-A Montgomery, where he finished last season having batted .248 with four homers and 25 RBI in 39 games.