Packed schedule could take a toll on Minnesota’s arms

John Anderson wasnâÄôt making a prediction: âÄúIf we donâÄôt play on Friday because of the weather and play Saturday-Sunday-Monday, then we have a game every day,âÄù the veteran head coach said Wednesday of the GophersâÄô Southern swing, which was scheduled to begin today and include eight games in nine days. âÄúAnd it really does challenge our pitching staff and it does challenge our players.âÄù It was a hypothetical scenario illustrating the unpredictability of extended road trips. Anderson was simply stressing the importance of learning to be âÄúcomfortable when youâÄôre uncomfortable.âÄù But it turned out to be more prophetic than hypothetical. MinnesotaâÄôs game slated for Friday at TCU was postponed on Thursday due to impending foul weather; now the Gophers will play eight games in eight days against three different Texas schools. Their series against the Horned Frogs will now run Saturday through Monday , followed by a pair of games against Texas-Arlington on Tuesday and Wednesday and three at Dallas Baptist on Thursday, Friday and Saturday . No. 11 TCU may be the toughest opponent Minnesota will face this season, but the Gophers are familiar with elite early season competition. Success against top teams is less familiar, however. Last year, Minnesota opened its season by being swept at fourth-ranked Ole Miss . âÄúIâÄôm sure the TCU fans will be on us a little bit, kind of like Ole Miss last year, but I think weâÄôre more prepared to handle it this time around,âÄù senior starting pitcher Tom Buske said. Buske is part of a starting rotation that has been brilliant in the early part of this season, but perhaps most important during the grueling week will be the GophersâÄô bullpen. Last weekend at the Metrodome Tournament, the bullpen logged a mere six innings in three games. Starters Chauncy Handdran, Buske and Seth Rosin, meanwhile, tossed 21 innings, allowed just three earned runs and issued a lone walk . If the starters continue to be bulletproof, the bullpen will have an easy job again, but with eight straight games, the pitching staffâÄôs depth will almost surely be tested more than it has been thus far. âÄúIt would be huge if our starters could have the same exact outings as theyâÄôve been having, but you have to imagine that weâÄôre going to use more guys,âÄù sophomore outfielder Michael Kvasnicka said. Anderson, who tends to keep his pitchers on rigid pitch counts, admits that he may have to bend his own rules to keep arms fresh. âÄúGuys are going to have to log some innings,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúYou may get in a situation where you have to leave someone out there longer than youâÄôd like just because youâÄôve got to have some pitch count out of them just to get through the week.âÄù Then again, if his pitchers continue to throw strikes as they have, that might be unnecessary. âÄúIf we continue to pitch like we have and throw the ball over the plate like we have, weâÄôve been pretty efficient in our pitch count,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúThatâÄôs whatâÄôs going to be critical in this stretch, is trying to find some guys that can get outs for us efficiently âĦ so we can gobble up some innings without having to burn up a lot of people âÄî especially early in the week.âÄù