Gophers pitching makes major-league impact

Three ex-Gophers pitchers have made baseball headlines recently. Two play for the Twins.

Megan Ryan

Of all the positions on the baseball diamond, Gophers pitchers have garnered the most major league attention in recent years.

Since 2006, three of the four former Gophers players to make major league debuts were pitchers, including the Minnesota Twins’ Glen Perkins and Cole De Vries. The most recent draftee is TJ Oakes, who signed with the Colorado Rockies in June and is currently playing in the minor leagues.

In all, 15 of the 33 Gophers baseball players that debuted in the major league have been pitchers.

Starting with the second Gophers player to play professionally in 1913, Heinie Elder, through the most recent player to make his debut, De Vries, Gophers pitching has found a role on major league baseball pitching staffs.

And it’s not just former players who have stepped on the mound. The San Francisco Giants drafted Oakes’s dad, Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes, who played in the organization for four years.

Gophers head coach John Anderson had his own pitching career cut short because of an injury. He never made it to the major leagues.

Mark Wilson, the Minnesota Twins’ north-central U.S. and Canada scout, told the Minnesota Daily in June that the Gophers coaching staff is one of the reasons professional teams draft from the program.

“I have the most respect for [Gophers head coach] John Anderson [and] Todd Oakes. … Those guys are absolutely outstanding at what they do,” Wilson said.

“When you get a player out of the U of M, you know [what] you’re getting … a player of good character, good makeup and someone that you want to have in your system.”

Wilson, who scouted both Perkins and De Vries, said there has always been a strong connection between the Twins and Gophers.

“The coaches, I think they do a good job of getting you ready for the next level.” Perkins said. “A lot of where I am right now is a testament to them.”

Only three former Gophers baseball players are currently in the major leagues. Besides Perkins and De Vries, infielder Jack Hannahan plays for the Cleveland Indians.

“It just bodes volume for the program, even with us being a northern school, the talent we’re able to put out there,” said De Vries, who debuted with the Twins in May.

Anderson said neither De Vries nor Perkins was a high school draft choice and that Todd Oakes helped them grow into professional-caliber pitchers.

While Anderson said the success of Minnesota pitchers transitioning into the major league gives his program credibility, he said the real tribute is to the pitchers.

“The bottom line is those guys did the work. They’re the ones that did the pitching. They’re the ones that had to make the decision to work hard and improve,” Anderson said.

“We’re just trying to be consultants now along the way.”

 — Andrew Krammer contributed to this report