Gophers look to fill void at second base

Minnesota will be without its usual starter in today’s game at South Dakota.

Trevor Born

Minnesota second baseman Jeremy Chlan could be out for more than a week, head coach John Anderson said Sunday.

up next

Gophers vs. South Dakota State
when: 6:30 p.m.
where: Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Gophers will use their game tonight at South Dakota State to look at other options at second, in case Chlan won’t be ready for their four-game series against Purdue this weekend.

“Chlan getting hurt is tough on us because we don’t have a lot of infield depth, but we’ll find a way to deal with it,” Anderson said.

Sophomore Drew Hanish will likely start at second base against the Jackrabbits. Hanish has just one at-bat in his career at Minnesota, but is one of the few infield options the Gophers have after redshirting their other freshman infielders.

Another option at second is Tom Steidl, though he is a first baseman by trade. Steidl was put in at second Sunday and indirectly cost the Gophers the game, throwing what would have been the game-ending out into the dugout, allowing Illinois to come back and win.

“Defense has been what we’ve hung our hats on all year,” Steidl said. “It was frustrating not to make that play but I have to keep my head up and try to redeem myself.”

Chlan has had something of a down year, hitting .276 with no homeruns, but will still be missed by a Gophers squad that is in the bottom half of the Big Ten offensively.

The senior strained his hip flexor running to first base Saturday against Illinois, which didn’t surprise Anderson. Chlan and the Gophers played back-to-back doubleheaders last Sunday and Monday, played a game in Iowa on Wednesday, and then played back-to-back doubleheaders at home Saturday and Sunday.

“I think that has to do with the cold weather and how much time they’ve spent on their feet out there,” Anderson said. “It puts a lot of extra load on the players’ bodies. Plus traveling and buses and airplanes, it all affects a kid’s body.”

Bullpen struggling

The Gophers are second-to-last in the Big Ten with a 6.13 team ERA, thanks in large part to a struggling bullpen. Eight of the nine regular Minnesota relievers have ERAs over 5.00.

Junior Tyler Oakes, who came into the season as one of Minnesota’s top relievers, has had the most trouble, with an ERA of 17.63 in 16.1 innings – the second most innings of any reliever on the team.

On Saturday, he gave up six runs in 3.1 innings, which actually brought his ERA down from 18.00.

“They’ve been struggling, for sure,” catcher Jeff DeSmidt said. “We keep saying that you have days like this, but we have to start figuring things out here.”

“They haven’t been asked to step up much this year,” he added after Saturday’s 15-2 and 7-3 losses, “and they didn’t answer the call when we needed them.”

On the bubble

With four Big Ten series left, the Gophers sit at 6-10 in the conference with four series left, putting them in danger of finishing out of the top-six and missing the Big Ten tournament for the first time in over 40 years.

Making matters worse for the Gophers, two of those four series are against Purdue and Michigan, the top two teams in the conference.

“We’re thirty-some games into the season here and these guys need to start growing up if we’re going to have a chance,” Anderson said.