Fiedler transitions to starting for Gophers

The junior led the team in ERA last season with a 2.86 in 15 appearances.

by Kaitlin Merkel

Junior Matt Fiedler took the mound for the Gophers’ first game of the season Friday in just his second college start.
He threw a career-high five-and-two-thirds innings against Utah, allowing one run on two hits in Minnesota’s 6-1 victory.
Fiedler moved to 2-0 as a college starter in the victory, but he said he saw a lot of room for improvement.
 “I was really excited to get the ball on opening day … but when I got out there, I didn’t feel like I had the same life on my pitches as I normally have,” Fiedler said. “But overall, I was pretty pleased with the outing because I was able to battle into the sixth inning without really having my ‘A’-ball stuff.”
The Eagan, Minn., native transitioned to the rotation in the offseason, after primarily coming out of the bullpen his first two seasons.
Fiedler made 15 appearances for the Gophers last year and led the team with a 2.86 earned run average. He started Minnesota’s second-to-last game of the season against
Michigan State and lasted three-and-two-thirds innings while allowing three earned runs.
He also made 50 starts, mostly in the outfield, and was second on the team with a .310 batting average. In the offseason, head coach John Anderson and pitching coach Todd Oakes talked about making Fiedler a starter to better use his two-way talents. 
“We probably didn’t get enough out of him on the pitching mound [prior to 2016] just because we were splitting his time so much,” Oakes said. 
Fiedler stretched himself out over the summer playing for the Rochester Honkers in the Northwoods League.
He made eight starts and appeared in 12 games for the Honkers and went 2-5 with a 4.27 ERA in 52 and two-thirds innings.
“We wanted to use the summer to see how it was doing, both as a starter and as an outfielder,” Fiedler said. “Rochester was really good for me. It wasn’t a super successful summer pitching-wise, but it helped me grow up a lot and learn the differences of being a collegiate starting pitcher versus a reliever.”
To grow into a starter, Fielder had to adjust to pitching deeper in games. He also worked on his control, as he had 20 strikeouts in 22 innings last year but allowed 19 walks.
“My mindset as a reliever [was] very short-sighted. I wanted to go out there and throw as hard as I can and really just pound every pitch and strike as many people out as I could,” Fiedler said. “Moving to a starting role, I really tried pitching to contact, pitching in the zone more.”
Fiedler was able to adjust his mindset before Friday’s game and have a successful first start. The team hopes he’ll continue to progress this season.
“I think in the past he was a little bit too much consumed with his overall mechanics and the radar gun and throwing hard and striking people out,” Oakes said. “Now he’s a little more focused on pitching, just trying to get hitters out with two, three, or four pitches. Ninety [MPH] on the corner is just as good as 94 [MPH] down the middle, so I think he’s learning how to use his stuff a little bit better.”