Tulane’s Tony Rizzotti signs with Padres

Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones learned Wednesday he will enter the 2014 season without a single weekend starter returning from the previous year.

Green Wave ace Tony Rizzotti signed with the San Diego Padres for a reported $175,000, foregoing an opportunity to pitch his junior season at Tulane. He was a 25th-round selection in June’s draft and received compensation far beyond Major League Baseball’s slotted recommendations in the round.

“We wish nothing but the best for Tony, and obviously the Padres decided to pay him way more than his slot money,” Jones said. “That’s the thing no one ever knows about. They also told him the rest of his education would be paid for at Tulane, in addition to his signing bonus. I’m disappointed for us, but I’m happy for him, and he’s a great kid, and I understand the decision he made.”

His departure, along with the graduation of fellow starters David Napoli and Alex Byo, leaves a weekend full of vacant positions in the Green Wave’s pitching rotation as the academic year looms just six weeks ahead.

Jones said he expects to sign another pitcher with the scholarship money freed up by Rizzotti and is also going to rely on some veteran pitchers returning from injury as well as the newly minted freshman class.

Still, it will be difficult to replace Rizzotti’s 2.22 ERA in 81 innings pitched.

“We are bringing in a ton of pitching in this class, and we also have Alex Massey continuing to rehab his way back as well as Tyler Mapes, who have both pitched well for us in the past,” Jones said. “And Randy LeBlanc has regained full flexibility in his arm after cleaning out some scar tissue, and that could change everything for us.

“All is not lost here, that’s all I’m saying.”