Rockies draft Gophers pitcher Oakes in 11th round

Junior TJ Oakes said he’ll decide this week whether to sign with Colorado or stay with the Gophers.

Minnesota pitcher TJ Oakes throws against Iowa on April 27 at the Metrodome.

Mark Vancleave, File Photo

Minnesota pitcher TJ Oakes throws against Iowa on April 27 at the Metrodome.

Andrew Krammer

Once again, it’s decision time for Gophers pitcher TJ Oakes.

Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 11th round of this year’s Major League Baseball draft, Oakes will decide this week whether to sign with his new team or return to the Gophers for his senior season.

“The [Rockies] scout is going to come out to our house sometime this week,” Oakes said. “We’ll try and work something out.”

The Minnesota Twins drafted Oakes in the 41st round of last year’s draft. But the signing bonus that late in the draft wasn’t enough to entice the Jordan, Minn., native to forgo his last two years of school.

So he stayed with Minnesota, where he posted a 7-3 record and a 2.31 ERA in 14 starts and made the All-Big Ten first team.

The 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound righty steadily improved his ERA every year with the Gophers. He also made the All-Big Ten third team in each of his first two seasons.

“I did what I needed to do,” TJ Oakes said Saturday.

This year, Oakes led the Big Ten in strikeouts looking (27) and finished third in total strikeouts (78), fourth in ERA and fourth in innings pitched (97.1).

“After not signing last summer, I really worked on getting into better shape,” Oakes said.  “I lost 10 to 15 pounds and it really allowed me to go out on the mound and go farther into games. “

As the designated Friday night starter for the Gophers this season, Oakes said it was crucial for the team to have him on the mound as long as possible so the bullpen could be rested for the weekend’s games.

“It’s really easy to get caught up in your draft status,” said Todd Oakes, TJ’s father and the Gophers’ pitching coach.  “But TJ did an awesome job focusing on winning another game for the Gophers and letting his pitching speak for itself.”

Todd Oakes said Thursday that he would be “very, very surprised” if his son wasn’t taken in the first 10 rounds. He said they would reconsider signing an MLB contract if he was taken in a later round.

Todd Oakes said the interest in his son has been up this year following his successful junior season.

“Last year he had three, four, maybe five teams interested,” Todd Oakes said. “This year, it’s been more like 12, 15, 18.”

The Twins have been one of those teams both years. However, TJ Oakes said the Twins didn’t push to draft him this time around.

“It was kind of surprising,” TJ Oakes said. “They were calling my adviser and trying to low-ball me and get me for a lot less than what I deserved.”

Since 1966, the Twins have drafted 25 Gophers baseball players — eight in the last five years.