If there was ever any hope that Kevin Gausman would return for a junior season at LSU, Paul Mainieri didn't share it.
LSU's head baseball coach met with reporters moments after Gausman, the fourth overall pick in last month's MLB draft, signed his rookie contract with the Baltimore Orioles just moments before Friday's 4 p.m. deadline to sign draft picks. The deal came down to the wire, and many LSU fans had begun to hope their ace would make a miraculous return to Baton Rouge -- but not Mainieri.
"These things happen this way," Mainieri said. "I thought the only way (a deal) wouldn't happen is if something really bizarre happened. I was holding a spot on the roster for him, just in case -- you never know when things happen. But I felt fairly confident it was going to get worked out."
Gausman was considered one of the top prospects in NCAA baseball all through 2012. He led the SEC with 135 strikeouts, posting a 2.77 ERA and 12-2 record that helped him to a first-team All-SEC selection. All those factors helped the Colorado native earn quite a payday -- one Mainieri said was too good to pass up.
"Truth be told I don't know that I would have let him come back and not sign -- for his own sake," Mainieri said. "You just can't walk away from -- I haven't seen the final figures -- but I'm sure he's got in excess of $4 million. How many of you have ever walked away from $4 million?"
The signing bonus turned out to be worth $4.32 million.
With Gausman's future decided, Mainieri turned his attention to the influx of talent heading to Baton Rouge for the 2013 season. Among the list of big names are power-hitting second baseman Alex Bregman, catcher Chris Chinea and 6-foot-5 pitching prospect Mitchell Sewald. Mainieri was reluctant to cast anyone's role for next spring prematurely, but he listed Chris Cotton, Brent Bonvillain, Kurt McCune and Joey Bourgeois as potential successors to Gausman's old starter role.
Mainieri touched on the obvious issue of replacing departed shortstop Austin Nola's defensive prowess -- his chief concern heading into next season -- and suggested that utility man Mason Katz could wind up replacing Tyler Hanover at third base.
He also added that there's likely a "90 percent chance" that center fielder Arby Fields will depart for another school before the fall season.