The offense was never a question for LSU baseball in the maiden voyage of the Jay Johnson era. The pitching? It left something to be desired.
But with a top-ranked transfer class and a more balanced rotation with left-handers and strikeout pitchers, he fully expects the mound at the box to be a scary thing to look at from the batter's box.
“I just like where we’re at from a depth standpoint," Johnson told Mike Detillier and Bobby Hebert on SportsTalk this week. "I think we have about six guys that could start. And I’ve never probably ever said that about any team, which gives us some flexibility to kind of interchange guys for any reason."
Listen to the full interview with Jay Johnson in the player above. Can't see the embed? Click here.
The depth is such that Johnson expects the team might even turn to some "piggybacking" throughout the season. That would mean a situation where, for example, the starting pitcher goes five innings, then is replaced by a "reliever" who goes four innings. The goal being that you maintain the pitching endurance of the starting depth pitchers even if there isn't a spot for them in the main rotation, with the goal of interchanging them throughout the season. It's a luxury the Tigers didn't have throughout what might have been an overachieving 2023 season from a pitching perspective despite some depth issues.
"I’m super excited about the improvement of the returners, the addition of the new talent we have … that’s a lot of pieces and I think Tigers fans are going to be really excited about what they see from the pitcher’s mound at The Box this year," Johnson continued.
MORE FROM JAY JOHNSON
On transfer pitcher Paul Skenes
“Yea, he’s special. The talent’s easy to see. Big guy. … Fastball up to 99 mph with three plus pitches, but a special person, too. Competitor, warrior, exactly what you thnk a player that spent 2 years at the Air Force Academy would be like in terms of discipline. And very few times do you get the total package with player, person, competitor. Paul is definitely all of those things.”
On balance with left-handed pitchers
“Last year we were really up against it. We only had two left-handers, Riley Cooper and Jacob Hasty, and both of those guys did a really good job for us. In terms of matching up we had to use them probably more than was probably ideal I would say, but they did a great job. This year we have a few more options on the left side. But the other thing that we also have is the right-handers that we have have so much better strikeout stuff and capability, that some of them can match up better with left-handed hitters than your normal right-hander. So I feel good about the balance of the staff.”
On Dylan Crews
“I think a couple things stand out. He’s such an exceptional talent and exceptional player that he immediately has the respect of all of his teammates, but how he carries himself, the things that the media and the outsiders don’t see on a daily basis. How hard he works, how good a teammate he is, the type of leader he is, how he handles both success and failure like a pro. I mean this guy is special. Anybody in the state of Louisiana, you want to do yourself a good service and make sure you watch this guy while he’s still in college, because it’s not going to be too long and he’s going to be playing in the Major League Baseball postseason.’
On Tre Morgan
He’s a great competitor and one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached to be honest with you. I was just talking to somebody and said ‘hey, if the bases are loaded and we’re down 1 in the 9th with two outs and two strikes, you want Tre Morgan at the plate because he’s such a good competitior. He’s going to find a way to hit a line drive somewhere.’ And then on the defensive side, I mean it’s well documented in terms of his ability to play first base. He’s got tremendous hand-eye. He’s flexibile, the ability to stretch, save throws, all those types of things and he’s a very valuable player. And just like Dylan, just like Paul, just like Thatcher, there’s a theme within our team: great talent with great character.”
On Jordan Thompson
“I think it’ll be one of the great stories of the team. I think if you asked any member of our team the confidence they had in him playing shortstop, it’d be extremely high. And I think everybody is going to see a great player on both sides of the ball and very confident in what he provides to the team and the great season I think he’s poised to have.”
Why have you been so successful in the transfer portal?
“It must be the head coach is such a great guy … No, I think recruiting is pretty simple, it’s just connecting players to what their goals and dreams are and showing them you have a plan to help them achieve them. And to do that, and do it at a place like LSU where we have great tradition, great facilities, great fan support, interest like no other in college baseball. And you can help them achieve what they want to achieve? I think that makes it a pretty good sell. I feel very fortunate to be the coach here and take advantage of those types of things.”