Replacing the 4th overall pick in the MLB draft is never an easy task, but that is the challenge Coach Paul Mainieri and the LSU baseball staff is face this spring.
Aaron Nola will take the mound on Friday
Kevin Gausman was a vital part in getting the Tigers to the NCAA Super Regionals last season. He posted a 12-2 record with a 2.77 ERA, and proved to be one of the top Friday night starters in all of college baseball.
LSU will look for someone to take over that role in the 2013 season and the players who will try and fill those shoes are Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades.
Nola, a Baton Rouge native, is coming off a great freshman campaign in which he started 16 games. Mainieri says the decision to start Nola on opening night against Maryland came down to one thing.
“Nola gives us the best chance to win,” said Mainieri.
The 6-foot-1, 183-pound right-hander is a strike-throwing machine. He only walked seven batters on the year and fanned 89 in going 7-4 from the hill.
The Catholic of Baton Rouge product will get an added treat on Friday as his older brother Austin will throw out the first pitch to open the season.
The 2012 campaign was quite different for Eades as he struggled with finding the strike zone. He walked 28 batters and hit 15 more while posting a 5-3 record.
Mainieri says that Eades has put last season behind him and likes where he is at the moment.
“There has never been a question about Eades’ physical tools,” Mainieri said. “His Achilles heel has been that he makes a bad pitch at a bad time.”
Mainieri believes Eades has done great in fall and spring practices, and he compares his position to where former Tiger Louis Coleman was after his sophomore season. In Coleman’s junior year he was 8-1 with a team best 1.95 ERA and tiger fans can only hope Eades will have the same results.
The third weekend starter will be Chris Cotton, who led the team in appearances, ERA, and posted a perfect 7-0 record.
Mainieri says Cotton will be used in a “hybrid” role meaning he may be used in a closing role on Friday or Saturday if need be. The skipper believes that Cotton’s best quality is “his ability to control the emotions of the game and calm himself.”
Cotton is not a hard thrower like Nola or Eades. Instead he uses his great control to get batters out rather than burn it past them.
If Cotton has to go on Friday or Saturday, Brent Bonvillain will be the Sunday starter. Mainieri says that a lot of the players believe that Bonvillain is the hardest pitcher to hit on the LSU staff.
Another pitcher to look out for this year is Cody Glenn, who Mainieri believes has improved the most out of all the pitchers.
Glenn came in as a freshman last year after being drafted in the 15th round of the MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school.
Mainieri said Glenn will be the midweek starter if Bonvillain has to start on Sunday, and he is confident that the 6-foot-4, 195-pound southpaw is poised to have a good season for the Tigers.