The LSU baseball team will have a month of practice to sort out the rest of its roles when it reconvenes in January.
But as fall practice winds down with the conclusion of the Purple and Gold World Series on Sunday and a final practice Monday, coach Paul Mainieri is starting to get a clearer picture of what the 2014 Tigers will look like.
He knows newcomers Danny Zardon and Kramer Robertson are capable enough at second base that he won’t have to tinker with the veteran left side of his infield.
He knows the outcome of the battle at second base and the crowded competition at catcher will have a domino effect that will help sort out the first base, left field and designated hitter spots.
He has a shorter list of candidates to pencil in behind Aaron Nola in the starting rotation, and he may have settled on his closer.
Sure, much is still to be decided between now and the season opener Feb. 14 against the University of New Orleans in Alex Box Stadium, but for a team that has just three pitchers and four position starters who were part of the College World Series participant last season, the fall workouts have provided an opportunity to see which newcomers are best prepared to fill in some of the holes.
“Zardon was very consistent offensively and defensively the first three weeks, though not quite as consistent the last couple of weeks,” Mainieri said. “Robertson you could see from the beginning he had a lot of talent, but he was very erratic. He’s improved the last two weeks, and it’s really competitive at second base.”
Before the start of the fall, Mainieri suggested he would reluctantly consider moving shortstop Alex Bregman or third baseman Christian Ibarra to second if need be.
He sees no need now.
“I’ll put the left side of our infield against anybody in the country,” Mainieri said. “I’d be crazy to break it up.”
LSU does not have a natural first baseman on its roster, and Mainieri said whoever doesn’t win the second-base job could be one of several candidates to play first.
“We’ve played six or seven guys at first base in the fall,” Mainieri said.
Another candidate at first is junior-college transfer Conner Hale, who was recruited as a third baseman in case Ibarra signed professionally after last season.
The competition at catcher likely will yield one or more candidates at first. Mainieri said the four-man competition behind the plate “has evolved” though it’s still pretty tight.
Mainieri said Tyler Moore “has probably been the best,” though junior-college transfer Kade Scivicque and Chris Chinea are close behind, and Michael Barash is in the mix.
“We’ll probably have more of a team effort there,” Mainieri said.
Mainieri said veterans Sean McMullen, Chris Sciambra and Jared Foster are competing in left field to join center fielder Andrew Stevenson and right fielder Mark Laird in the starting lineup. McMullen, the incumbent designated hitter, likely will either retain that role or grab the left-field spot.
Robertson, who Mainieri called an “electric player,” has played some left and could be in the mix.
Mainieri said the pitching staff “has made big strides.”
Before the start of the fall, Mainieri said the only pitching role that was certain was that of reigning Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Nola as the Friday night starter.
After watching more than a month of practices and scrimmages, Mainieri said Cody Glenn likely will be a weekend starter, and Hunter Newman was competing to be another before being sidelined by “a little strain in his shoulder.”
“Cody has matured, and our hitters and (pitching coach) Alan Dunn all say Cody is improved, and he has a good shot to be weekend starter,” Mainieri said. “I’m disappointed that we had to shut down Hunter Newman. He threw very well in the few outings he had and looked like a bona fide weekend starter. He may still be a weekend starter. He’ll be ready in the spring.”
Senior Kurt McCune is another candidate, as is Joe Broussard, whose “velocity is back up” as he returns from Tommy John surgery.
“I’d love to see Kurt McCune finish his career at LSU with a flourish,” Mainieri said. “Joe Broussard has had some inconsistency, but he’s also had flashes of brilliance.”
Nola, Glenn, McCune, Broussard, freshman left-hander Jared Poche and junior college left-hander Kyle Bouman were chosen to start during the Purple and Gold World Series.
Mainieri said Brady Domangue, who was briefly sidelined by a dislocated knee cap before returning, is the top candidate to be the closer.