Gophers’ Snelten maturing into dominant starter

first_imgMinnesota pitching coach Todd Oakes said he is surprised how quickly Snelten adjusted to his new role.“I knew he’d be better this year,” Oakes said, “but I didn’t think he would be better this quickly.”Oakes acknowledged Snelten’s technical improvements, but he also said a simplified approach has helped him come into his own as a starter.“We’re more of a staff that likes to establish our fastballs,” Oakes said. “I really believe a starting pitcher with a [quality] fastball like he has should be able to get through the lineup the first time through throwing 75 percent fastballs.”Snelten’s fastball has topped out at 95 mph this season, and he consistently hits anywhere from 91 to 93 mph.He throws a couple of off-speed pitches as well: a slider that breaks down and away from left-handed hitters and a changeup that does the same with right-handed hitters.A curveball is in the works, too, he said, but he hasn’t thrown it in a game yet.Both Anderson and Oakes said Snelten will remain in the starting rotation for the foreseeable future.Windle, who battled tendonitis in his throwing shoulder for the past month, returned to the bullpen last weekend against Michigan.He struggled with his command, walked four batters and allowed two earned runs in a combined 1.1 innings.Windle was 6-2 with a 1.52 ERA in 19 appearances last season as one of the Gophers’ top relievers. “With the way DJ is throwing, you can’t mess with that,” Oakes said.“It’s a pretty good luxury to have Tommy on the backburner and be able to use him out of the bullpen.”If Windle is able to build up his pitch count by the end of the season, it will give Minnesota a fourth viable starter alongside Snelten, staff ace TJ Oakes and senior Austin Lubinsky. Having a fourth starter could be crucial if the Gophers make a playoff run.“It’s nice to have one of us in the bullpen,” Windle said. “We’ll definitely have the depth to make it a long way in the Big Ten tournament or the regionals if we make it there.” Gophers’ Snelten maturing into dominant starterDJ Snelten has excelled after a forced call to the rotation. Samuel GordonApril 5, 2012Jump to CommentsShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via EmailPrint For Gophers pitcher DJ Snelten, it was never a question of physical talent.Scouts were drawn to the southpaw’s 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame and his dominant fastball. Representatives of college and professional teams lined fences to watch him throw during his high school career.“We knew he had the physical ability. That’s why we recruited him,” Gophers head coach John Anderson said. “That’s the price for admission here.”What Anderson and the rest of his staff didn’t know is how quickly Snelten could scale the mental mountain. After struggling with it for much of his freshman year, Snelten has shown great improvement as a sophomore.In nine appearances, six as a starter, Snelten is 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA — more than twice as good as his 5.22 mark last year.Snelten credited his improvement to his mental and emotional maturity.He said he’s improved as a player but added he thinks “it’s more about my mental approach.“I think I’ve kind of calmed down. I’ve kind of developed the mentality of staying calm in situations that are way above me.”Snelten was a self-described “head case” in his younger years who lacked focus and was sometimes rattled by the professional and collegiate attention he received.Upwards of 40 colleges sought Snelten’s abilities, and the San Diego Padres drafted him in the 30th round of the 2010 MLB First Year Player Draft, but he opted to play at the University of Minnesota.He worked primarily out of the bullpen as a freshman and was slated to do the same this season while occasionally serving as a midweek starter.However, an injury to No. 2 starter Tom Windle forced Snelten into the rotation, where he has excelled during the last month.In six starts, he is 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA. His .194 opponents’ batting average is best on the team.Throughout his career, he has worked with team psychologist Rick Aberman. Snelten said Aberman has been instrumental in his transition from the bullpen to the rotation.“He’s taught me that one of the important lessons is no matter what role you’re in, the size of the ball doesn’t change,” Snelten said. “You’re just going out there and doing the same job as you are in any other role.”last_img read more