Even after 42 seasons and 2,365 games as Gophers baseball coach, John Anderson had another first entering his final season.

"We were able to practice outdoors for six days in January," said Anderson, who announced in December that he would retire at the end of the 2024 season.

The outdoors helped speed up the Gophers' preparations for the season, which begins this weekend with four games in Surprise, Ariz.

"Our fall and winter practices were the best we've had since 2019-20, which has helped us get ready for a challenging schedule," said Anderson, who is the winningest coach in Big Ten baseball history and third-winningest active Division I baseball coach with 1,365 career victories.

With U.S. Bank unavailable because of turf renovations, the Gophers will play their first 22 games — over the next seven weekends — away from home. The Gophers are scheduled to play only 18 of their 48 regular-season games at Siebert Field. Their home opener is April 2.

The Gophers, who haven't had a winning season since 2019, return 21 lettermen and starters at eight positions from last year's team, which went 18-34 overall and 10-14 in the Big Ten. Minnesota went 6-4 over the final month of the season.

The Gophers also return six pitchers who threw at least 20 innings last season. They welcome back three pitchers who missed 2023 because of injury, and they added three pitchers through the transfer portal.

"We're the healthiest we've been on the mound in the last 12 months," Anderson said. "And it's important that our pitching coach, Ty McDevitt, is healthy. He battled Lyme disease for 2½ years. He's an outstanding coach. Having him back has helped our pitching staff."

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Will Semb, who missed last season because of injury, Connor Wietgrefe and Tucker Novotny will open the season as the top three starters.

Highly recruited Sam Kennedy and T.J. Egan, who both missed their freshman season, are recovering from Tommy John surgery and are progressing.

Transfers Tommy Gross (Creighton), Justin Thorsteinson (Oregon State) and Nick Argento (North Carolina) have added depth to the pitching staff.

"I think the key word for this season is health," Anderson said. "We had a rash of injuries last season, losing five pitchers to injury. For us to be successful this year, we can't repeat last year. We have to have our best players on the field."

The Gophers will start the season without pitcher Noah Rooney.

"He's out best reliever and our closer," Anderson said. "He's got an arm issue and we have time so we're going to rehab him for a while and see if it improves."

Top returning offensive players include second baseman Brady Counsell, the only Gopher to play in all 52 game last season, catcher/first baseman Weber Neels, who hit .274 and led the team with seven home runs and outfielder Boston Merila, who batted .303 and had a .425 on-base percentage.

"I'm not going to make any predictions," Anderson said. "We need to play better defense than we did last year and we need to throw strikes. Dick Siebert always said if you play defense and throw strikes you've got a chance."