LSU relievers look to get back on track vs. Alabama

Last week wasn’t the greatest for LSU’s bullpen — but perhaps a little rest was just what they needed before a big home series against Alabama

Kurt McCune and the rest of the LSU bullpen embraced final exams earlier this week.

There wasn’t much else to do.

The Tigers coaching staff prohibited its group of relievers from picking up a baseball — let alone throwing it — Monday and Tuesday.

After an exhausting and struggling weekend in a series loss at Texas A&M, LSU’s arms got a much-needed break during this, exam week.

“It was refreshing,” McCune said Thursday. “I came back yesterday and — I mean, I can’t speak on behalf of the staff, but I’m sure they feel the same way I feel.”

Let’s face it: LSU’s bullpen blew it in College Station, Texas.

In three games last weekend, Seven relievers retired just 17 of their 42 batters faced. That’s 40 percent.

They allowed six runs — A&M scored 11 on the weekend — and walked 10 while striking out two.

In each of the three games, the starter left with LSU leading or tied before the tumble began.

Simply, the bullpen just didn’t have it.

“The bullpen struggled,” Mainieri said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Just before a whopper of a series — LSU (35-13-1, 13-10-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts Alabama (31-18, 13-11) starting Friday — Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn think they’ve come up with a fix.

The relievers just need a bit of R&R. Aside from starter Aaron Nola and Jared Poché, no other LSU pitcher threw for two days.

“That’s unheard of for them to do during the season,” Mainieri said.

The coaches are hoping the display in Texas won’t return this weekend at Alex Box Stadium.

Relievers had issues finding the strike zone, and closer Joe Broussard had the roughest weekend of what had been a masterful season. Broussard’s velocity is Mainieri’s “biggest concern.”

His velocity dropped under 90 mph and “he looked fatigued,” the coach said.

Broussard, in appearances Friday and Sunday, allowed three hits, walked five and gave up three runs.

He faced 12 batters and retired just five of them.

Will the rest help?

“I’d have to imagine it felt pretty good for him,” McCune said. “For Joe to be up to 96 and down to whatever he was, you could tell he needed a break. I’m sure he’ll be strong for the weekend.”

Broussard’s velocity dropped to the mid to high 80s in College Station.

He didn’t have the only struggles. Nate Fury, Brady Domangue and Zac Person all struggled to find the strike zone.

Mainieri exhausted his bullpen looking for answers. He worked every healthy pitcher aside from Henri Faucheux. Hunter Devall and Parker Bugg were out with sore shoulders. They should be available this weekend.

“It’s rough to see them do bad,” Faucheux said. “It’s not rough in the sense of not getting to pitch. Your number gets called, your number gets called.”

Dunn met with all of his pitchers Tuesday about the rough weekend. The main topic: LSU didn’t throw enough strikes.

“Our first-pitch strike percentage was down,” Faucheux said. “Our numbers for the season, everything was (worse). He wants us to get back in there and start attacking hitters.”

That begins Friday against a Crimson Tide club that’s second in the league in home runs (36) and fourth in average (.282).

McCune shrugs off the struggles of last week.

“They say that you go out there for 15 outings, five of them you’re going to be great, five you’re going to be good and five you’re just not going to have your stuff,” McCune said. “Evidently, a lot of guys didn’t have their stuff.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @rossdellenger. For more coverage of LSU baseball, follow our Line Drives blog.