by Carl DuboisJuly 18, 2009 12:02 AM
WESTLAKE -- LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said Blake Dean's surgically repaired throwing shoulder could keep him from playing defense until March 2010, but once he's ready to play, Dean's days as the team's designated hitter will end.
Mainieri made his comments at a Tiger Tour 2009 stop Thursday night, a day after Dean underwent surgery on his left shoulder to clean up lingering problems.
"His schedule of recuperation and rehabilitation from that may drag into early March," Mainieri said, "so I'm not sure when he's going to be able to start playing a position every day, when his arm will be able to."
Once that happens, Mainieri said, Dean will play in the field on a regular basis.
"I've gone on record that I've made the commitment that Blake Dean's going to play a position," Mainieri said. "I don't know if it's going to be first base or left field, but he's going to play one of those two positions. He wouldn't have been interested in coming back as a DH, but at the same time I don't think it's making a huge sacrifice on my part to commit to him playing a position either.
"That kid has meant so much for our program for three years. He's made a lot of sacrifices. He's been one guy that you can count on all the time, and I think to help his career and to help our program -- and it helps our program that he's coming back -- this is something I'm totally committed to."
Questions about Dean's place in the lineup were among the issues fans talked about at the annual tour stop in the Lake Charles area. Another topic was whether Chad Jones will be used solely as a relief pitcher in 2010 or also play outfield.
Jones will be a junior in football this season and a junior in baseball the following winter and spring.
"With Chad, I just take it one day at a time," Mainieri said. "We're going to let him go through football. We hope he'll have a great year, and then he may declare for the NFL Draft. We don't know, so I don't want to count on him.
"I'm saving a roster spot for him, but I'm not going to count on him necessarily until we see what happens after football's over."
Mainieri said he didn't expect any significant personnel changes between now and the start of fall practice, but LSU's roster is in flux until the mid-August deadline for drafted players to sign pro contracts or retain their college eligibility.
"We have 33 players on our roster," Mainieri said. "I don't anticipate us needing to release any players or anything like that. We had two players decide to transfer, Jordan Nicholson (UL-Lafayette) and Randy Ziegler (Bossier Parish Community College), and of course we don't know what's going to happen with the draft.
"Eight of our 13 recruits were drafted, and we lost one of them. We've got two or three others that are going to be iffy propositions for us, so we've just got to kind of wait and see how that all plays out."
Having lost outfielder Jared Mitchell to the Chicago White Sox and first baseman Sean Ochinko to the Toronto Blue Jays, Mainieri said he also expects to lose second baseman D.J. LeMahieu to the Chicago Cubs and outfielder Ryan Schimpf to the Blue Jays.
Dean's decision to return to LSU for his senior season cleared up the biggest uncertainty for Mainieri and the Tigers.
"It's starting to take better shape now," Mainieri said.
Mainieri reflected on a national championship won in late June at a College World Series that prompted some analysts to call LSU the most talented team in the country. He noted the SEC had teams with far more players drafted than the Tigers (Georgia and Ole Miss both had 11 players drafted, Florida 10).
"We had six. So we had talent, but we got the most out of that talent, believe me," Mainieri said, laughing.
Mainieri talked about having Mitchell and Jones, two players with BCS national championship football rings, on his team -- and how LSU's 2007 football championship influenced his baseball team. The coach said he and his players watched each of LSU's football victories from 2007 as inspiration for seeing a championship team come together.
That football coach Les Miles and Mainieri both won national championships in their third year at LSU did not go unnoticed at the Tiger Tour stop. LSU men's basketball coach Trent Johnson, the SEC Coach of the Year in his first season with the Tigers, said the success of Miles and Mainieri puts some pressure on him.
Johnson joked about it, but he later said he welcomes high expectations (more on that in Sunday's report).
Mainieri talked about being overwhelmed by thousands of letters, e-mails, text messages and phone calls he received after LSU defeated Texas for the national championship. More than two weeks after the final game, he was still working his way through replying to text messages and other forms of communication.
"It just warms your heart to know that so many people got so much enjoyment out of this championship," he said.
Carl Dubois has covered LSU sports on a regular basis since 1999. A Lake Charles native, he enjoyed being back with friends and family while getting a chance to catch up with LSU coaches and fans.