More playing time gives LSU’s Tyler Moore a boost

HOOVER, Ala. — Tyler Moore is embarrassed to admit it. But, yes, he jogs in the dugout.

The LSU junior uses 60-foot sprints to keep warm during games when he doesn’t start.

Even more embarrassing: the squatting. About once an inning, Moore squats while inside the dugout, walking back toward the wall, out of view, and dropping his bottom near the concrete floor.

Welcome to the world of a true utility player, a guy in and out of the starting lineup.

“It can be difficult at times,” Moore said. “You just have to deal with that mentally and physically and stay ready.”

Moore is dealing with it just fine. He has done so for three years.

There are valleys — he had nine at-bats in a six-game stretch midway through the season — and there are peaks.

LSU (42-14-1) meets Arkansas (38-22) in a Southeastern Conference tournament semifinal at noon Saturday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, and Moore is peaking.

The loser of Saturday’s game is eliminated. The winner faces Kentucky, Florida or Mississippi State at 3:30 p.m. Sunday for the title.

Kyle Bouman is scheduled to start for LSU, but it’s the Tigers’ bats that have stolen the spotlight recently — Moore to be more specific.

The 6-foot, 215-pound Baton Rouge native has a hit in seven of the past eight games and has at least one RBI in seven consecutive games.

In all, he’s 13-of-28 and has driven in a whopping 17 runs in the past eight games.

“The kid’s hot right now,” said good friend and ace pitcher Aaron Nola. “He’s crushing the ball.”

Like LSU’s recent offensive surge — 74 runs and 88 hits in six games — Moore’s hot streak is somewhat inexplicable.

Nola says Moore is simply relaxed, playing care-free with no weight on his shoulders.

Coach Paul Mainieri said Moore is a streaky hitter on a hot run.

And Moore? He might have the best answer of all: He’s finally playing every game and getting into a rhythm.

“Just getting the opportunity to play every day for the past three weeks has really helped a lot,” he said. “I guess it’s helped my timing a little bit. Think that’s the biggest thing — just getting the opportunity. The timing’s there, and the swing is there.”

About playing every day …

Moore has started 37 of LSU’s 57 games, already the most starts in a season during his LSU career. He’s the utility guy on the team, filling the same role now for three seasons.

He’s not necessarily perfect at any one position — first base, third base and catcher — but he’s good at them all. And his hitting? Yes, Mainieri said it’s streaky.

Not right now, though.

“When he gets going, he’s a tough out,” Mainieri said. “He’s seeing it well right now, boy. His bat is like lightning going around. He’s always had a flare for the dramatic.”

The last part refers to Moore’s late-inning clutch swings in his career. The anniversary of one is Saturday.

He had a two-strike, two-out, game-tying double in the top of the ninth inning last year against Alabama in an SEC tournament elimination game. The Tigers won to advance. They won the tournament two days later.

“It would be nice on the year anniversary for him to get another big hit,” Mainieri said with a smile.

What it won’t be? Surprising.

Moore sent a solo home run over the left-field wall in the 7-2 win over Arkansas on Thursday, a shot that the LSU staff estimates soared more than 390 feet.

He has seven extra-base hits among his 13 knocks in the past two weeks. He had seven over the first 49 games of the year.

“We’ve been changing his diet,” Mainieri said jokingly as he searched for a reason for Moore’s popping bat recently.

What’s really happening is that Moore is taking advantage of the most playing time he has received all season. Moore has started nine of the past 11 games, and many times he’s in the lineup only as Nola’s private catcher.

Moore and Nola have been friends since around age 10. They played against and with each other during travel ball. Moore first caught the now hard-throwing righty when he was 13.

The relationship has helped Moore start the game off the bench. It eliminates those embarrassing dugout actions.

“Stretching. Squatting,” he said. “It sounds weird, but running in the dugout. That’s to stay warm so, when we do get in, we don’t hurt ourselves.”

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