Is Paul Mainieiri trying to throw out Ranaudo's arm? Or was he just inspired by the college king of pitcher abuse sitting across the field in the visitor's dugout? It's not just that Ranaudo threw over 120 pitches, it's that it was wholly unnecessary.
If the game was 5-4 in the 7th, sure. Send Ranaudo out there. Damn the torpedoes and all that. But Ranaudo had thrown 108 pitches after seven innings. That's a big workoad, but probably a safe one. If Ranaudo goes out and has an incredibly efficient inning, he probably ends up with 125-130 pitches thrown. And you better have a good reason to throw your ace for 120 pitches. Mainieri didn't. In fact, everything about the situation called for a reliever.
LSU was up 9-4. The game was safely in hand. Ranaudo had pitched 130 pitches in his last start. And, probably most importantly, Ranaudo looked gassed. The ESPN announcers were discussing his mechanics breaking down as early as the 5th inning. Pitchers don't get hurt once they hit a magic number of pitches. they get hurt when their mechanics break down, which is more likely when a guy is tired. Like, say, when he has thrown 108 pitches in the Louisiana heat. It even showed in his performance. Even though Ranaudo pitched a clean slate in the 7th, Rice hitters scorched the ball. Ranaudo needed two terrific defensive plays to bail him out of the inning. I could think of no logical reason to send our best pitcher (with apologies to Ott and Coleman) to start the 8th.
The thing is, Mainieri did a great job once he got to the pen. He brought in Bertuccini, but once LSU added a bunch of runs in the bottom of the inning, he saved Bert's arm for a more high leverage situation in a later game. Sure, Buzzy Haydel got lit up for a bunch of runs, but he was never close to blowing the lead. And Mainieri made the right call in saving the rest of the pen while Haydel gave up a bunch of runs which truly did not matter.
Speaking of burning the pen, what was Wayne Graham doing? He burned up Evers, one of the top rice relievers in appearances, and then he used his closer in a game that was obviously a lost cause. And while we're talking about pitcher abuse, you cannot tell me that pitching Ojala at all is a good idea. He needs Tommy John surgery in the offseason, yet he's out there pitching.
I simply don't trust Graham's judgment. He had perhaps the greatest college pitching staff ever in 2003 and almost all of them have ended up with arm trouble. Not coincidentally, they all pitched a ton in college. He does not have the credibility to say, "trust me". He has shown that he is perfectly willing to slag a young pitcher's arm. I simply don't understand why any young pitcher would ever go to Rice. Then again, LSU didn't exactly have the best reputation on the treatment of pitchers under Skip. I would hate for Mainieri to get the same reputation and lose out on future prospects.
Take care of those young arms, it will pay off in the end.