Sun 1 May 2011
Before last Thursday’s debacle of a doubleheader, Jim Hoey had been one of the Twins few bullpen success stories. Following his April 17 call-up from Rochester, the righthander didn’t allow a run and picked up two holds in his first three appearances. During April 28’s 15-3 blowout loss to Tampa however, Hoey was tagged for 5 hits and 3 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. In the spirit of optimism (it’s only May 1 after all), let’s just chalk that outing up as an aberration on a very forgettable day.
Hoey had spent 8 injury-riddled, but generally successful seasons in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system before coming to Minnesota in the J.J. Hardy trade last December. Armed with an upper 90s fastball, the Twins hope he can hone his overall repertoire enough to become an effective late inning set-up man.
The friendly 28-year-old was relaxing near his locker before last Wednesday’s game when I interrupted him for a quick chat.
DZ: You’ve been up here a little over a week now, how’s it been for you so far?
HOEY: It’s been great. I got to know a lot of these guys in spring training – every one of them – that helps.
DZ: Going back to spring training, obviously you went in there with the goal of making the team and it didn’t work out; were you surprised to be up here this quickly?
HOEY: I knew I needed to work on things. Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) pulled me aside and told me exactly what I needed to work on…Especially during spring training, after one appearance he brought me aside and threw me right into the bullpen and said, “Hey, we need you to work on your splitter – just throw it a little softer, get a feel for it and throw it in the strike zone.” So, I was able to go down there and at least do that and have some success with it.
DZ: You came over here from the Baltimore organization, where were you when you found out about (the trade)?
HOEY: I was actually home in bed. Someone called my wife at like 9 in the morning and said, “You’ve just been traded.” I usually get up about 10, 10:30 to start my day…my wife woke me up, said I was traded and I couldn’t be more happy.
DZ: This is a team that has a lot of opportunity in the bullpen…so you had to be excited about that.
HOEY: Yeah, definitely. I want to win and this is a winning ballclub. That’s the fun part about baseball.
DZ: You’re a guy who is known for hitting the radar gun up there pretty high. When you are coming up as a pitcher in high school, college and even the low minor leagues, can you get trapped into relying on that too much at the expense of your other pitches?
HOEY: I never really threw that hard until after I had Tommy John (surgery) and I was in pro ball, I think it was ’06 where I started feeling my velocity…I had elbow problems all the way through college and into pro ball. I finally got it fixed…injuries have really hindered my performance and going out there and learning new things about pitching. That’s probably my biggest thing, but when I do learn, I learn quickly.
DZ: Yeah, I noticed your minor league numbers were pretty good, so you think injuries are what have stopped you from having more major league time.
HOEY: Yeah, injuries have been killer; getting back to health – that’s one – and now I have to learn how to pitch again. Every time you are hurt and don’t pitch for a year, you have to learn how to pitch again. It’s the learning phase all over (again).
DZ: You had a little bit of service time in ’07 and now, four years later, (you’re back). Is it almost like your major league debut all over again?
HOEY: Umm, in a sense. I kinda got that out. Now I feel like I belong here, I’ve proven myself – I can be healthy and pitch the way I used to pitch. Now I’ve proven to myself that I have another pitch to back it up with. Now I feel like I belong here rather than “Oh my god, am I going to make it?”
DZ: Is there anything you’ve noticed that has changed during (the 4 years)?
HOEY: A lot of guys I played against when I was younger are here now. That’s what’s changed a lot – I’ve seen a lot guys grow up that I played against in ’06 and ’07 in Double A or whatever and now they’re all here. It’s just different pitching against them. I’ve seen them and I know the hitters.
DZ: One last thing, there’s a doubleheader tomorrow; what do you like to do between games?
HOEY: Usually there’s not that much time in between games, but tomorrow I am going to have a ton and I am not sure what I’ll do. I probably eat a little bit, hang out and I’d like to help Cuddy with his computer – we’ve already planned that for tomorrow. Other than that, I’ll just see who I can go and (talk to), hang out and get to know somebody a little bit better and then get my mind on baseball because I’ll have to do it again.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:
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