Calm, Cool Cole Henry Gets His Shot in Weekend Rotation

by Cody Worsham
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Calm, Cool Cole Henry Gets His Shot in Weekend Rotation

This is what they look like, Paul Mainieri caught himself thinking earlier this week, while waching Cole Henry throw a bullpen.

Repeatable delivery. 6-foot-4, 214 pound frame. A fastball that’s touched 97 this season with a good changeup and breaking ball, to boot.

This, Mainieri thought, is a starter.

That’s the thinking behind Henry’s move into the Saturday starting spot in LSU’s rotation this weekend against California, as the freshman right-hander replaces Landon Marceaux to earn the nod in the first game of the March 9 doubleheader.

It wasn’t just Henry’s pen session, though. Against Texas last weekend, Henry went three innings, giving up just one earned run and striking out four in a hostile road atmosphere. In his last two outings, he has seven Ks with a 1.80 ERA.

“Cole has a lot of attributes that you love in a pitcher,” Mainieri said. “His stuff speaks for itself. He’s got a great fastball, but he’s a three-pitch guy. He’s got a great curveball and changeup as well. He threw an awful lot of strikes the other day against Texas.

“His mechanics were very consistent, he was able to repeat his delivery, he threw an awful lot of strikes.”

Mainieri also likes his freshman pitcher’s make up. He never gets too high, never gets too low. He’s steady, a product of Henry’s father instilling into his head growing up: don’t let anyone phase you when you’re on the mound.

“When I go out on the mind, I block everything out,” Henry says. “It’s just me and the catcher. Nothing really gets to me.”

It’s a mindset that reminds Mainieri of a previous Tiger ace.

“He’s got a very calm and cool demeanor, much like an Aaron Nola,” Mainieri says. “Not putting him in Nola’s class yet, but he doesn’t get too out of whack when things don’t go good. He doesn’t get too high when things are going good. He’s got a lot of talent, so this is going to be a very big challenge for him on Saturday. These guys can really hit.”

Cal is led by Andrew Vaughn, the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner who is currently hitting .529 with seven homers in 10 games. The Golden Bears rank 20th nationally with 1.2 homers per game and 38th in slugging percentage. Vaughn’s individual tallies rank fourth (homers), fifth (batting average), and third (slugging percentage) in the country.

“I’ve just got to execute pitches,” Henry says. “I’ve pitched against a lot of good hitters. Even our own hitters. It’s not very fun in scrimmages facing Josh Smith, Antoine (Duplantis), (Daniel) Cabrera, all them. It’s the same thing as pitching to them. You have to execute pitches and not make mistakes.”

Mainieri hasn’t committed to a weekend rotation beyond this series. With SEC play set to start next week, Henry has a chance to earn a spot in that three-man group heading into the conference slate.

“If he can rise to the occasion and pitch against this Cal team in a very outstanding way and for an extended period of time, he throws himself right into the mix for the weekend rotation in the SEC,” Mainieri says.