Tim Shannon’s elbow couldn’t take it anymore. Nor could his mind. The Gophers senior had been the quintessential starting pitching recruit, standing 6-7, with a big overhand delivery.
He was an all-state selection for Hopkins and began his college career at Michigan. Then his ulnar collateral ligament gave out in his right arm, requiring Tommy John surgery. The aspiring law student transferred to Minnesota but continued having elbow pain and posted ERAs of 5.85 in 2015 and 9.00 in 2016.
Finally, after last season, coach John Anderson asked: How about remaking yourself as a submarine-style reliever?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result,” Shannon said.
“I knew what I was doing wasn’t working, so I had to make a change.”
The result has turned Shannon into a much different pitcher: slouching, funky-looking, junk-ball throwing — but effective and durable. His consistency helped position Minnesota atop the Big Ten standings heading into the final regular-season series against Purdue.
Shannon has a 3.00 ERA in 27 games, needing one more appearance to tie Jason Karrmann’s team record from 1994.
“To be honest, it’s kind of frustrating,” Shannon said. “I’ve had more success throwing the ball 80 miles per hour than I ever did at 90.”
Shannon sets up before each pitch with his lanky frame hunched over and his left leg jutting out at an angle. He rocks back and almost looks like he’s flinging Frisbees toward home plate. But his 79-82-mph fastball has good sinking action, and he throws a 68-69-mph breaking ball, “which guys just can’t seem to sit back on,” he said.
Best of all, he’s seemingly always available to pitch. Anderson calls him “Everyday Timmy.”
“I had no idea what to expect and how it would feel,” Shannon said.
“But when you only throw the ball 80 mph, it doesn’t really take that much toll on your arm.”
After deciding to revamp his delivery, Shannon spent more than three months getting comfortable with it. He started by playing catch, just hoping not to break a window, before gradually working his way to the mound.
“It takes a lot of patience,” he said.
“I mean, you throw one way since you’re 8 years old and then basically, over the summer, I had to completely relearn baseball.”
Anderson commends the way Shannon set aside his pride to help the team.
“He’s been that kind of person since he’s been in our program — totally unselfish, very mature young man,” Anderson said.
“I’m so happy he’s had some success because he’s always cared a great deal about the team.”
Last week, Shannon graduated with a political science degree.
“I’ve applied to six law schools; I’m on six waiting lists,” he said.
Soon, he’ll start an internship with TCF Bank. He said he’s given no thought to extending his baseball career beyond this Gophers season.
“I think I’m going to happily retire, maybe play some town ball or something,” he said.
“But I’m saving my last bullets for here.”