Young LSU pen eating up innings

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU reliever Parker Bugg follows through on a pitch during the game between LSU and Texas Southern on Sunday at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge. Bugg pitched one inning with two strikeouts. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU reliever Parker Bugg follows through on a pitch during the game between LSU and Texas Southern on Sunday at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge. Bugg pitched one inning with two strikeouts.

Parker Bugg’s father has driven a limousine carrying Bill Clinton and his family.

He did the same for another former U.S. president, George W. Bush, and he was also a member of the security detail assigned to then-retired president Gerald Ford.

The son of a secret service agent, Bugg isn’t allowed to share any more information.

He couldn’t anyways.

“That’s about as much,” a smiling Bugg said, “as he tells me.”

A window into the life of LSU’s true freshman reliever tells the tale of a kid raised by a father whose job it is to protect the nation’s most powerful people.

No wonder Bugg has developed into LSU’s late-inning, fearless, clutch reliever.

As the Tigers (20-4-1) head to New Orleans on Tuesday for a game against Tulane (12-11), their bullpen — a jumbled and questionable mess a month ago — has evolved into a strong unit whose members are sliding into identifiable roles.

For instance, take Bugg.

Since the three-game set against Purdue — the third weekend series of the season — Bugg has only pitched in the eighth or ninth inning. That’s not counting Sunday’s 2-2 tie against Georgia, an unusual game in which LSU started a reliever and used a host of others in rare fashion.

According to the numbers, Bugg is LSU’s set-up man. Since Purdue and excluding Sunday, he’s appeared in five games: twice starting the eighth and three times entering the eighth or ninth with at least one out and never anyone on base.

His role seems to be as clear as any, aside from closer Joe Broussard, LSU’s go-to ninth-inning arm.

But don’t peg pitchers in a specific part just yet, said pitching coach Alan Dunn.

“I think it’s still evolving,” Dunn said.

If the roles aren’t certain, they’re at least clearing up. Dunn admits that.

While roles have emerged, the numbers have remained low.

LSU pitchers have thrown 91.2 innings of relief. They’ve allowed 58 hits, 15 earned runs, 26 walks and have struck out a whopping 85.

That’s an earned run average of about 1.40.

In 25 games, LSU’s bullpen has had only three real blemishes: Brady Domangue’s rough outing at UNO in the second game of the season; Hunter Devall’s bad stretch in a loss to Yale; and Kurt McCune and Cody Glenn’s hiccups in a Game 3 loss at Vanderbilt.

When eliminating the above four relievers, the other six have an ERA of 0.633.

The bullpen’s uncertainty of February — five new faces filled the group — has, indeed, turned into a confident March.

They displayed it in the tie against Georgia.

“The bullpen did amazing,” Bugg said. “That’s the definition of a staff doing a great job.”

The pen pitched a shutout for nearly 12 innings, and Bugg, Henri Faucheux and Person each went season-longs as LSU was without injured starter Kyle Bouman.

That’s left coach Paul Mainieri with five available pitchers for the game at Tulane: Glenn, who will start, Domangue, Devall, Nate Fury and McCune. Runnels grad Alden Cartwright, a freshman, is recovering from a shoulder strain and might be available.

Meanwhile, the relievers are settling into roles. Most admits things are becoming clear.

Bugg is just one of many sliding into spots. He’s the guy with the interesting story. After all, who can beat this: “My father’s a secret service agent who has protected presidents.”

“It’s pretty cool,” Bugg said, laughing.

As for the others, Cartwright and Person appear to be middle relievers who can stretch their arms. Cartwright replaces a starter who’s having problems early. Since the Purdue series, he’s only entered to start the fourth and fifth innings.

Person makes his appearances, mostly, in the sixth and seventh.

Fury has emerged as the jam guy. And he knows it.

“I assume I’ll come on with runners on,” he said.

No reliever over the past three weeks has entered a game with runners on base more than Fury.

Faucheux, meanwhile, is a quandary of late. He’s entered in a different inning — fourth to the eighth — in each of his four appearances over the last three weeks.

So maybe things are still getting adjusted — and that’s a good thing.

“I’ve eaten up a few innings, but I feel like everyone on our staff could go in there in the same innings I’ve been in and produce the same numbers,” Person said. “No one’s claiming roles yet because everyone’s doing a pretty job.”

Tulane’s Jones sidelined

Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones remains sidelined because of an illness and will miss at least the next four games for the Green Wave, beginning with Tuesday’s game against LSU and this weekend’s Conference USA series at Marshall.

Associate head coach Chad Sutter and assistant coaches Jake Gautreau and Shooter Hunt will share the coaching duties for the Green Wave during Jones’ absence.

Jones did not coach in last weekend’s home series against Middle Tennessee.