Now healthy, pitching staff prepares for Big Ten play

Projected starters DJ Snelten and Alec Crawford are back from injuries.

DJ Snelten pitches during Saturday evening's game against The Citadel at the Metrodome.  The Gophers had a shutout victory with a score of 3-0.

Satchell Mische-Richter, Daily File Photo

DJ Snelten pitches during Saturday evening’s game against The Citadel at the Metrodome. The Gophers had a shutout victory with a score of 3-0.

Samuel Gordon

The back end of the Gophers pitching staff is getting healthy at just the right time.

With conference play set to begin Friday, pitchers DJ Snelten and Alec Crawford both returned from injury last week, leaving head coach John Anderson with the difficult task of sorting out which arms will go where.

Junior lefthander and Friday starter Tom Windle is pitching like an All-American and is the unquestioned ace of the staff.

The 6-foot-4-inch Windle is 3-2 with a 1.54 ERA in six starts this season. He’s thrown three straight complete games, the first of which was the program’s first no-hitter since 1993.

Meyer, a sophomore righty, has done well as the Saturday starter, posting a 3-2 record and a 2.79 ERA in six starts.

Anderson said he has no plans to remove Meyer from the Saturday slot, but the third spot in the rotation is still undecided.

Crawford, who has started each of the past two Sundays, looks to have the inside track.

“We’ll probably start Alec and use DJ to back him up,” Anderson said about his third starter spot.

Both Snelten and Crawford were considered as starters before the season.

After Sunday’s outing, Crawford, who missed the first month of the season with a knee injury, said he’s much more comfortable as a starter.

Crawford said he wasn’t aware of any plans coaches had for him in Big Ten play.

Snelten, who’s returning from an elbow injury, was the Gophers’ No. 2 starter last season.

He posted a 4-4 record and a 3.24 ERA in 16 games last season, including 13 starts.

Anderson said he’s satisfied with the strides his team has made but disappointed with how little Snelten and Crawford were able to pitch.

“They’re behind,” he said. “They’re two of our better arms. We’ve got to keep getting them out there.”

Gophers pitchers rank first in the Big Ten in strikeouts (175) and have the fifth-lowest team ERA (3.01).

Anderson said he’ll evaluate Crawford and Snelten this weekend before making any permanent decisions.

“We’ll figure out long-term how we’re going to do it based on how they pitch,” he said.

Notes

Wednesday’s game will be Minnesota’s last at the Metrodome, which will be torn down after the Minnesota Vikings’ 2013 season.

The Vikings will open a new stadium in 2016 at the site of the Metrodome. The stadium will include space for a baseball field.