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Mainieri saves ace Nola for Friday night

Last Modified: Thursday, May 02, 2013 12:02 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

LSU’s Paul Mainieri has never been afraid to tinker with things or to think outside the box for any little edge.

So now the Tigers head coach is trying to outwit Father Time and Mother Nature with one broad swoop.

The third-ranked Tigers (40-6, 16-5 Southeastern Conference) open what they hope will be a bounce-back series tonight against Florida in Baton Rouge, looking to make amends for losing their first series of the season last weekend while dropping two of three against South Carolina.

But they’ll start the series without their ace, Aaron Nola, on the mound for the opener to be nationally televised by ESPNU.

Mainieri said it’s partly because of the Thursday start for television, which wouldn’t give Nola his customary full week between starts.

Nola has been dominant most of the season and all but untouchable the last three weeks as the Friday starter.

Mainieri said he doesn’t want to mess with that routine.

At some point, however, Nola (8-0, 2.14 ERA) will have to pitch on fewer than seven days rest. The Tigers’ final two series of the regular season also will be Thursday-Saturday affairs.

More importantly, Mainieri is being realistic about the looming threat of rain for tonight’s game.

Nola has thrown complete games in his last three outings, including a shutout of Alabama two weeks ago. When he does that, it’s a real advantage for LSU to keep a rested bullpen.

But that could be complicated by a potential long rain delay or two, which might force Nola out of a re-started game with plenty otherwise left in the tank.

So well-rested left-hander Cody Glenn (5-1, 3.13) is scheduled to start tonight. Glenn hasn’t pitched since April 21 in the final game of the Alabama series. He had his most impressive outing of the year even though the Tigers eventually lost in 10 innings.

But Glenn doesn’t figure to pitch more than five or six innings at best, so a delayed or suspended game wouldn’t be that big of a crimp in LSU’s overall pitching plans. He was scheduled to start and pitch a few innings against McNeese State on Tuesday night, but Mainieri said he held him back when he hatched the current plan.

Mainieri gave Kurt McCune the Sunday start against South Carolina and he would be available in a re-start situation, as would the rest of the deep bullpen.

If tonight’s game is, by chance, rained out before it even starts, the two teams will play a doubleheader on Friday, with Nola starting the first game and Glenn the second.

Ryan Eades (7-1, 2.30) will start Saturday’s final game.

At some point, probably tonight, Florida will start Jonathan Crawford, who shut out LSU last year and is considered a potential first-round draft choice. But he has battled nagging injuries and has struggled much of the season (3-5, 4.06).

Then the Gators might pray for rain. No other UF pitcher has started more than four SEC games and head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he was still mulling his options.

Florida (25-20, 12-9), which has the nation’s toughest strength of schedule, got off to a slow start but has won its last three conference series, including a sweep two weeks ago of the same South Carolina team that toppled LSU.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: LSU, LH Cody Glenn (5-1, 3.13 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 54.2 IP) vs. UF, TBA.

Friday: LSU, RH Aaron Nola (8-0, 2.34, 90 strikeouts in 80 IP) vs. UF, TBA.

Saturday: LSU, RH Ryan Eades (7-1, 2.30, 62 strikeouts in 55 70) vs. UF, TBA.>

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