Gophers looking to move past 2015 pitching woes

The team’s pitchers combined for a 5.40 ERA last season and had 202 walks.

Gophers pitcher Toby Anderson throws the ball against Kansas State at Siebert Field on April 28, 2015.

Alex Tuthill-Preus, Daily File Photo

Gophers pitcher Toby Anderson throws the ball against Kansas State at Siebert Field on April 28, 2015.

by Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers’ chance at a rebound season in 2016 starts on the mound.
Minnesota has 13 returning pitchers on the staff who will attempt to lower the team’s earned run average from a disappointing 5.40 last season.
The spotty pitching caused the Gophers to finish with their first losing record since 2008 last year.
“We’ve got the talent. There’s a lot of guys who have big time arms, and really, not a lot of stuff has changed from last year in terms of our staff,” junior pitcher and outfielder Matt Fiedler said. “We’re disappointed in last season. … We know our stuff is better than what we’ve shown.”
One addition the staff will have this season is pitching coach Todd Oakes, who will return full-time after fighting leukemia for the second time last year.
With Oakes back, the Gophers pitchers will try to be more aggressive on the mound to avoid falling behind in counts as much as they did in 2015. 
“[It’s] an attack mentality. The difference between being 0-2 and 2-0 and the difference that makes when facing a hitter,” redshirt junior pitcher Tim Shannon said. “It’s a confidence thing. You’ve got to be willing to put your stuff over the plate and let the defense [work].”
Head coach John Anderson said on Feb. 2 candidates for the regular three-man starting rotation were Fiedler, senior Dalton Sawyer and junior Tyler Hanson, but nothing will be finalized until the team’s first game on Feb. 19.
Anderson said they’ll consider having junior Toby Anderson pitch the fourth game of the team’s opening series.
Sawyer made eight starts for the Gophers last year and finished with a 4.53 ERA in 15 appearances. The lefty was drafted in the 27th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins, but he elected to return to campus.
Anderson made seven starts and had a 5.14 ERA, while Hanson appeared 14 times out of the bullpen with a 4.82 ERA.
Fiedler made one start as a pitcher and appeared 15 times on the mound, earning the lowest ERA on the team last year with a 2.86.
The junior had 20 strikeouts in 22 innings last year but also had 19 walks.
“Just throwing strikes — that’s my biggest issue on the mound is just figuring out how to consistently throw strikes,” Fiedler said. “I’ve put a lot of work into that in the past year, really since last season ended, cleaning up my mechanics.”
The Gophers struggled with control last season, as the team walked 202 batters in 450 innings. Minnesota’s path to a better 2016 season likely starts around the strike zone.
“It’s just an approach thing than anything physical,” Shannon said. “Even last year the numbers might not have been great, but we still had a really talented staff.”
Ben Gotz contributed to this report.