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Sophomore pitchers adjust to starting roles

Injuries have thrust Ben Meyer and Jordan Jess into the starting rotation.

There’s no such thing as too much starting pitching in baseball.

When everybody’s finally healthy for the Gophers, though, they’ll have a lot of it.

Injuries have kept hard-throwing lefty D.J. Snelten and junior college transfer Alec Crawford out of action so far.

But sophomores Ben Meyer and Jordan Jess have joined veteran Tom Windle in the rotation, and they’re growing into quality starters.

Both rebounded from poor outings against No. 12 UCLA in their season debuts and turned in good efforts last weekend against Western Michigan. Minnesota head coach John Anderson said he’s pleased with their development thus far.

“How do you get confidence? You get out there, and you have success,” Anderson said. “We know they have enough ability.”

Meyer displayed some of that ability as a freshman.

He made 15 appearances in 2012, including 13 as a reliever, and finished the season with a 2.37 ERA. He was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team at season’s end.

Meyer said he didn’t know he would be added to the rotation until a couple of weeks before the season opener, and he’s still adjusting to higher pitch counts.

“It’s nice to get in a routine and know when you’re going to throw,” he said.

Anderson said the coaching staff had plans to develop Meyer as a starter early in his career.

“He’s on what I say is a natural progression for pitchers in our program,” Anderson said.

Meyer said the experience last year helped ease the transition from the bullpen into the rotation.

Jess also made 12 appearances as a freshman, including five starts.

“[Starting] is something I wanted to do since I got here,” he said. “I enjoy the long pitch counts. I love stretching it out and going seven-plus innings. That’s what I want to do.”

Jess pitched a career-high six innings in his first win of the season.

Anderson said he originally thought of Jess as a midweek starter, but that could change depending on when Snelten and Crawford return.

Snelten, who has dealt with elbow soreness, is back on a throwing program, and Anderson said he hopes to bring him back during the Gophers’ two-game series at Kansas State, which starts March 19.

Crawford is recovering from a knee injury and is starting to do more throwing, Anderson said.

When everyone’s healthy, the coaching staff will evaluate the situation and make adjustments accordingly.

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