Midweek opponent allows Anderson to shuffle lineup

Minnesota plays South Dakota State tonight at the Metrodome.

Robert Mews

Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson isn’t afraid to change a lineup card in the middle of a Big Ten race.

He’s also more willing to do the same for a nonconference opponent, such as South Dakota State (18-21), which the Gophers (20-17) face at 6:30 tonight at the Metrodome.

Anderson said midweek games are an opportunity to re-evaluate his players and get some younger players some experience and rest some starters.

“We’re here to try and develop our players and try to keep getting better,” he said. “And if you don’t try different combinations and take some risks once in a while, then how do you know?”

What is known is that Anderson said he’d like to get Tony Lesemen over at third base.

Joe Maciej is the only real option the team has at third since Nate Hanson went out with a wrist injury.

“We really don’t have another player if we do pinch-hit for Joe or if he gets hurt,” Anderson said about the situation. “I’m hoping to get him over there on Wednesday.”

Anderson has used a past midweek game to place outfielder Mike Mee at third, an experiment he has not tried since.

“I’m not afraid to make some changes, and I’m not afraid to try different people,” he said.

Anderson also said he’d like to get shortstop Dan Lyons and second baseman Luke MacLean some rest.

“I’d like to give Luke MacLean a little break,” he said. “His arm is a little tired, so he could use a break.”

However, MacLean said he’s willing to “grind it out” the rest of the season.

“Yesterday (Monday) was enough time off for me,” he said. “I don’t have anything after these four, five weeks (of school). It’s now or never.”

MacLean has played in 35 of the 37 Gophers games this season, while Lyons is one of three players to have played in 36 of the games.

“We’ll probably play a number of players,” Anderson said. “If those guys play I hope I can limit their play.”

Because of the midweek game, junior pitcher Marcus McKenzie also will get a chance to impress the coaches – he’s getting his second start of the season tonight.

“We were impressed with his ability to at least go out there and have some command,” Anderson said. “Maybe he’s going to be a factor here at the end of the year.”

McKenzie said he’ll most likely pitch three or four innings.

“I have a pitch count due to the fact that I got my first start the other day,” he said. “I threw about 40 pitches. So that will probably be around the same, maybe a little more.”

After McKenzie pitches the Gophers most likely will mix and match out of the bullpen while doing the same to the batting order. But that’s customary for the Gophers in a midweek game.

“There’s always one or two guys that aren’t normal weekend starters,” MacLean

said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for the future of the program to get those guys some at-bats.”