Windle making the most of early-season appearances

The freshman was just named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week.

Windle making the most of early-season appearances

Derek Wetmore

With the teamâÄôs mangled schedule this year, head coach John Anderson is struggling to find innings for all his pitchers, but one hurler taking full advantage of his opportunities is freshman Tom Windle.

The young lefthander, who normally pitches out of the bullpen, drew a midweek start last week against Sacramento State and ran with the opportunity.

Windle pitched five innings and allowed only one run on four hits while striking out five. The performance not only earned him a win in his first college start, but he was later recognized as Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week.

âÄúThat was pretty cool,âÄù Windle said. âÄúItâÄôs cool to be acknowledged for that. Pitching well last week and just staying consistent.âÄù

Windle holds a share of the team lead with five appearances this season; he has thrown 13 innings, has 12 strikeouts and a 2.08 ERA. He is 2-0 and is holding opponents to a .234 batting average.

âÄúHeâÄôs a talented young man, and he just needs some additional experience. Our plan was to have him be a midweek starter, but we wonâÄôt have many midweek games anymore, so that plan has gone awry,âÄù Anderson said.

Though heâÄôs not the most seasoned arm in the bullpen, Anderson hasnâÄôt hesitated to use Windle this year and says he sees the Maple Grove native as a future starter.

Anderson isnâÄôt the only one who has noticed WindleâÄôs potential; the Chicago White Sox selected Windle in the 28th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player draft.

Windle didnâÄôt sign with the club, opting instead to join the Gophers.

Though lefties coming on in relief will sometimes struggle to consistently get right-handed batters out, Anderson said thatâÄôs not a problem with Windle. His three-pitch mix of fastball, slider and changeup are all effective, something that is critical for anyone who aspires to be a starter.

The problem for some pitchers when they face a batter of opposite handedness is that it can seem like their arm slot forces them to throw into the swing. Anderson said Windle avoids that pitfall by pitching his fastball hard inside to righties and using his changeup.

Windle can throw the off-speed pitch at any time and in any count, to righties and lefties.

âÄúIâÄôm comfortable throwing my slider to righties and keep it low [in the strike zone],âÄù Windle said. âÄúI can throw my changeup for a strike at any time, and I like to throw it in counts hitters might be thinking a fastball is coming.âÄù

Added Anderson: âÄúHeâÄôs got sink and run, heâÄôs got good life to it,âÄù meaning WindleâÄôs pitches have lateral and vertical movement, coupled with the velocity necessary to survive at the college level.

âÄúIf we have an injury or need to make a change [in the starting staff], obviously heâÄôd be a top candidate to fill one of those positions,âÄù Anderson said.

Windle and the rest of the staff will try to get straightened out and finally pitch some consistent innings when Big Ten play opens Friday, April 1.

Thus far, there havenâÄôt been enough innings to go around for all of the pitchers Anderson would like to see throw in games, namely seniors Scott Fern, Tim Ryan, and Cullen Sexton.

âÄúThereâÄôs no innings. You feel for those guys because theyâÄôre seniors, and this is it,âÄù Anderson said.

With just 14 days between their most recent game and the start of conference play, the Gophers have only three more games âÄî this weekendâÄôs series with Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif. âÄî to further prep the entire pitching staff.

TJ Oakes, Phil Isaksson, and Austin Lubinsky will start the three games, and Anderson said he will try to balance getting everyone work with trying to win the games. That has been increasingly difficult this year as games have been canceled due to weather and because the team has fewer midweek series and intrasquad games because of the collapse of the Metrodome.

âÄúThis is new territory for me even after 30 years,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúIâÄôm learning as I go, too.âÄù