It took a while for Matt Hobgood
to realize that something wasn't quite right with his shoulder.
The fifth overall pick in the 2009 Draft was accustomed to throwing hard, working within the strike zone and challenging hitters. But, when he broke camp with Delmarva in 2010 for his first year of full-season play, Hobgood found himself unable to reach back and bring the heat.
"I came in and that whole year I was basically 87-90 [miles an hour], maybe 87-91 some games, but as time went on I'd be 87-88, 87-89, and just kind of stayed there," said Hobgood. "Nothing higher, nothing lower. And my arm slot had dropped a little bit, from where in high school it was more a high three-quarter slot to where basically the whole season I was almost down to a low three-quarter. Not sidearm, but not three-quarters."
Hobgood noticed the change in arm slot while comparing video of himself from high school to his time as a professional, and deemed it a subconscious attempt to compensate for his injured shoulder. He was eventually diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff, an injury that effectively shut him down from September 2010 to March 2011.
"I've never had something where I've had to miss time," said Hobgood, who turned 21 on Wednesday. "So the rehab process, missing time, it was all kind of new to me.
"It was a little frustrating. It still is kind of frustrating now, coming back, not having my velocity. But I feel like it is helping me as a pitcher."
Hobgood began the season with Baltimore's affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, allowing five earned runs on 10 hits in 10 1/3 innings before advancing to Aberdeen in mid-July. He has made four appearances for the IronBirds. In the first two, he allowed four runs on 12 hits over eight innings. In the last two, one of them a relief appearance, opponents have scored 15 runs on 14 hits in four innings.
"You know, I'm rehabbing, I'm coming back," said Hobgood. "I think it'd be different if I was going out with my best stuff, felt good, and I was just getting hit around. Then maybe I'd be a little more concerned.
Despite his troubles, Hobgood feels good about the strength of his shoulder and is optimistic that his velocity -- which has been sitting at 88-91 and touching 92-93 -- will continue to rise. In the meantime, he excels at evaluating each outing, learning from it and moving on.
"It's funny because I go on my Twitter account, Facebook, whatever, I like to mess around, and I think sometimes maybe people see that as me not taking it serious," said Hobgood. "I see it as turning the page. I'm not going to sit there and dwell on it. If I go seven scoreless and give up two hits and lose, or if I go 2 2/3 innings and give up nine runs, I need to realize what I did wrong and move on. I'm not going to sit there and cry about it.
"I'm not going to get all upset because my ERA went up or whatever. Obviously, as you get higher and higher you worry about those things, but I want to try to stay as even-keeled as I can, and I honestly am. I think I've learned that if you get all upset about stuff, you'll take it into the next day, you'll take it into your bullpen, you'll take it into other facets of your game, and it'll hurt you in the end. So I try and turn the page every day."
Never a dull moment: Williamsport has had no shortage of excitement this week. Following Tuesday's game in Brooklyn, in which the benches cleared after a play at the plate, the team bus was involved in a collision while returning to the hotel. No one was seriously injured, and Wednesday afternoon's game started at the scheduled time, but the Crosscutters lost to the Cyclones, 3-2, on a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning.
Nothing but glove: Twelve times this season, a New York-Penn League batter has reached on catcher's interference. Williamsport's Kelly Dugan, who's done it six times, is the only player to do it more than once.
Tough luck: Lowell lost to Aberdeen on Wednesday, 1-0, despite allowing just two hits. Both were recorded by the ninth hitter in the lineup, Kyle Hoppy, who singled in the third and drove in the winning run with a triple in the 11th.
Olivers all over: Three pitchers with the last name Oliver took the mound Monday, and two of them factored into the same New York-Penn League decision as Staten Island's William earned the win and Jamestown's Daniel the loss in the Yankees' 5-0 win. Andrew Oliver, meanwhile, took the loss for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.