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July 14, 2012

Offensive help on the way

Kevin Gausman went right up to the 4 p.m. deadline Friday afternoon before signing with the Baltimore Orioles and giving up his final two years of eligibility at LSU.

Even though Gausman signed his contract in the final available minute, Tigers coach Paul Mainieri never believed that his No. 1 pitcher would return for his junior season.

"The only possibility for Kevin not signing would have been if some bizarre happenings took place," said Mainieri at a press conference Friday afternoon. "The negotiations had to get personal for Kevin not to sign. I thought he was going to sign all the time.

"I don't know if I would have let Kevin come back. You can't walk away from $4 million. Kevin did his job at LSU. It was the right time for him (to leave). You don't get $4 million unless the team expects you to go to the major leagues and to go to the major leagues fast."

Gausman was given a signing bonus of $4.32 million dollars. The slot value for the fourth pick in the draft was $4.2 million. The only other LSU underclassman to give up his college eligibility was relief pitcher Nick Goody.

Three Tigers signees opted for professional baseball - infielders Joey Gallo and Jesmuel Valentin and outfielder Hayden Jennings. All three of those players signed contracts last month.

Two drafted signees made the decision to attend LSU - infielder Alec Bregman and pitcher Will LaMarche. Bregman was drafted in the 29th round by the Boston red Sox, while LaMarche was selected in the 18th round by the Minnesota Twins. Both players indicated to scouts they wanted to attend LSU.

The 2012 Tigers recruiting class includes 15 players - three infielders, four outfielders, one catcher and seven pitchers. Mainieri strongly believes that the LSU offense will be aided by the incoming recruits.

Bregman and catcher Chris Chinea are expected to provide some power. Bregman will be given an opportunity to win the starting shortstop job. He will compete with junior college transfer Christian Ibarra. Chinea, who will be Ty Ross' backup at catcher, has the chance to get into the lineup at first base.

"I don't think Alex would have come to school in the old days," Mainieri said. "He was injured and missed most of the year. In the past, he would have been drafted late and played in the summer. The team would watch him and give him first-round money.

"There were no money limitations then. Now, there is a limit on the money. We are fortunate that Alex is coming to school. He will have an impact on our team this year. Chris is also a power hitter. I thought there was a good chance he would go in the top six rounds. But, he had a high price tag."

While Bregman and Chinea can provide more long-ball hitting, three other signees will bring speed to the offense - freshmen Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson and junior Sean McMullen. Laird was going to be a LSU football walk-on before deciding on playing baseball for the Tigers. All three are outfielders.

"We had to get more athletic in the outfield," Mainieri said. "That was the big difference between Stony Brook and us. It seemed like Stony Brook had five outfielders out there when we hit the ball. We had trouble covering the gaps. That was one of our weaknesses - not enough speed in the outfield."

All three players are lefthanded hitters. Mainieri considers Laird and Stevenson speed guys at the plate. Those three players will compete with Raph Rhymes and Chris Sciambra, who is no longer wearing a neck brace, for playing time in the outfield.

"Stevenson has a filled-out body," Mainieri said. "He is athletic and physical. Stevenson has gap power and he can really run. Laird is not as powerful as Stevenson, but he has a better swing. McMullen's power numbers are better than Laird or Stevenson.

"We have brought in three legitimate center fielders. I don't think we'll need JaCoby Jones in center field next year. It will be interesting to see all three outfielders in the fall."

Mainieri must find a replacement for Gausman in the weekend rotation. Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades are projected to be two of the top three starters. Chris Cotton threw well in his three starts in the Northwoods League this summer.

Mainieri mentioned three incoming pitchers as candidates for a starting job - Hunter Newman, Mitchell Seward and Jamie McClure. LaMarche could be a contender as a replacement for Goody as the closer.

Pitcher Michael Reed will not return to the team. According to Mainieri, it's a 90 percent chance that outfielder Arby Fields will also transfer - possibly to Concordia, a NAIA school in California. Jackson Slaid is also not returning to the team.

Tyler Moore had surgery on his hand and has not played in the summer. Pitcher Joey Bourgeois has been shut down for the summer due to a sore shoulder. Rhymes has returned home early from the Cape Cod league.

Here are the members of LSU's 2012 baseball signing class.

INFIELDERS
Alex Bregman: 5-11, 180, Fr., Albuquerque, N.M. Academy
Drafted in the 29th round by the Boston Red Sox; two-time all-state selection

Christian Ibarra: 5-7, 155, Jr., LaPuente, Cal., Rio Hondo College
Rated the best junior college shortstop in California this season

Geonte Jackson: 6-0, 170, Fr., Sugarland, Tex., Elkins
Batted .347 with 1 homer and 16 RBIs this season

OUTFIELDERS
Mark Laird: 6-2, 180, Fr., Monroe, La. Ouachita Christian
Class 1A Most Valuable Player this season

Sean McMullen: 5-8, 175, Jr., Metairie, La., Delgado Community College
Honorable mention All-American; Batted .452 with 21 doubles, 5 homers and 37 RBIs this season

Chase Rivett: 5-10, 175, Fr., Gonzales, La. East Ascension

Andrew Stevenson: 6-0, 170, Fr., Youngsville, La., St. Thomas More
Batted .546 with 11 doubles, 1 homer and 20 RBIs this season; All-American; first-team all-state

CATCHERS
Chris Chinea: 6-0, 205, Fr., Miami, Fla. Gulliver Prep
Batted .542 with 12 doubles, 9 homers and 38 RBIs this season; high-school All-American

PITCHERS
Taylor Butler: 6-1, 180, Fr., Lake Charles, La. Barbe
Earned three victories during Barbe's playoff run to the Class 5A championship

Hunter Devall: 5-10, 180, Fr., Clinton, La., Centreville Academy

Will LaMarche: 6-3, 220, Jr., Pleasanton, Cal., Chabot College
Drafted in the 18th round by the Minnesota Twins; pitched 19 innings while rehabbing from surgery

Jamie McClure: 6-2, 180, Jr., Baton Rouge, La., Panola Junior College
First-team All-Conference Region 14 East

Hunter Newman: 6-4, 180, Fr., Bloomingdale, Ga. Calvary Baptist
Posted a 6-2 record with a 1.51 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 74 innings this season

Russell Reynolds: 6-3, 175, Fr., Baton Rouge, La. Parkview Baptist
Posted an 8-2 record with a 1.90 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 44 innings this season; All-American

Mitchell Seward: 6-5, 180, Fr., Mandeville, La., Rummel
Posted a 5-1 record with a 0.98 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 64 innings this season; first-team all-state



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