BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In 2010, LSU-Eunice transfer and Lutcher native Joey Bourgeois was called upon to be an SEC starter for Paul Mainieri's Tigers.
There were positive outings, but in the end the final result was disappointing. Despite a 4-1 record, Bourgeois' ERA of 6.68 was entirely too high; and so was his weight, as a diet loaded with fried and fast food had him tipping the scales at 235 pounds.
Then came what could've been the death nail to his LSU career. He needed Tommy John surgery, which would require a grueling rehab and serious commitment just to get back on the field again.
Bourgeois was up to the challenge.
"For me it all started with rehab. I came here every day working hard, to get back where I needed to be. I came out here each day and worked on every single pitch. I told myself I wasn't going to sit around for a whole year. I started eating right and jogging two miles every day. Before you know it I knocked off 30 pounds. And I wasn't complaining about it."
LSU senior third baseman Tyler Hanover, who jokes Bourgeois' Cajun accent is so thick he had a hard time understanding him speak initially, endorses the right-hander's commitment.
"Joey is a hard worker. After that Tommy John surgery he was here every day, either running or working to get back." says Hanover, "He was 100% into the rehab and has totally transformed his body. And he's a better person for it."
Bourgeois has only pitched 18 innings this season, as opposed to the 60 2/3 he worked in 2010. But you can argue the work has been even more important. Bourgeois has been called upon in some tight, pressure packed situations and delivered. His ERA this season is just 1.50, with batters hitting a measly .155 against him.
"I'm so happy he's experiencing the success he's experiencing," says Mainieri, "I think two things have helped him. #1, the work Alan Dunn (LSU pitching coach) has done with him to really tighten up his curve ball. His curve ball has a much tighter spin to it. He's got much better control of it. And second, really finding a niche for him. He can come in for short stints, and really air it out. Similar to what we've done with Kurt McCune."
Mainieri says there are no plans to make Bourgeois a starter again, saying that once batters got a second and third look at him two years ago, it was the pitcher's undoing. The coach says the new role, is the right role.
"If it's not broke, why fix it?" Mainieri adds.
And the junior who sat out the entire 2011 season, is ok with that.
"You kind of miss starting, because everybody wants to be a division one starter. But coming out of the pen, I appreciate every out I get. You never know when you'll get the chance. It keeps you in the game. You have to stay stretched out," Bourgeois adds, "Whatever coach needs me to do, one out, two outs, two innings….I'm here to do what he needs to help the team."
"I'm extremely happy for the boy," Mainieri adds, "He's a great young man, from a tremendous family, who's worked extremely hard."