Hobgood throws off mound and other scenes from minor league camp (and note)

SARASOTA, Fla. - The Ed Smith Stadium complex is closed today, but there's plenty of action at Twin Lakes Park, where minor league pitchers and catchers are working out.

Position players who reported to the early camp also took the field today - guys that manager Buck Showalter wanted to be ready in case they were needed in Grapefruit League games.

Matt Hobgood, the fifth overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player draft, threw off a mound today for the first time since instructional league in October, and only the second time since April 2012. He didn't pitch last season after undergoing surgery to tighten his right shoulder capsule.

Dr. Craig Morgan, who's based in Delaware, recommended the procedure after Hobgood was shut down twice while trying to rehab the shoulder.

Hobgood said he threw 25 fastballs with 85-90 percent effort today after participating in the pre-throwing program.

"Arm feels good. No pain for the first time in a couple years, which is nice," he said.

"It feels good. First time in a couple years that I've actually been excited to report to spring training. I'm just like any other guy. I'm trying to make a team. No restrictions on me. I'm on the same program as everyone else. And apart from maybe my innings limit this year, I'm going to be like any other guy.

"I had surgery in April and rehabbed the entire year and only threw a few innings in 2011, so it's basically been a couple years since I pitched, and almost four years since I pitched pain-free. I worked really hard this offseason, both on my arm and my body. I was ready to report to camp."

Hobgood, 22, is 4-15 with a 5.48 ERA in 42 games (41 starts), with 173 hits allowed, 72 walks and 97 strikeouts in 157 2/3 innings. He hasn't advanced past low Single-A Delmarva, where he made 21 starts in 2010, and he hasn't pitched since appearing in five games with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League team and eight games with short-season Single-A Aberdeen in 2011.

The Orioles will discuss where to assign Hobgood for the start of the 2013 season, and whether he needs to remain back in extended spring training.

"I'm happy. It's been a while since I felt good on the mound," he said.

"In my mind, I'm OK. I know that I've put in the work - like I said, both with my body and my arm, and mentally. There were times when I was down about that, but that's behind me. I worked really hard to get where I am now.

"I'm not going to go out and try to put up a certain ERA or throw a certain amount of innings. I guess my No. 1 goal right now to start off is just to stay healthy and continue moving up and continuing to get the arm strong. That's where I am right now."

Rick Peterson, the Orioles' director of pitching development, monitored Hobgood's mound session today, along with Dave Schmidt, coordinator of Sarasota operations.

"I've seen Matty rehab in instructional league, really just playing long toss. This is the first time on the mound," Peterson said. "It's the first day, but now he's here to hopefully compete for a position and see how he can do, get him in competition."

Hobgood was listed at 265 pounds last year, but says he got down to 250. His conditioning came into question early in his professional career, but shedding weight didn't improve the condition of his shoulder. Now he's 258 pounds with 11 percent body fat.

"I used to be in the teens somewhere. I know this is the lowest I've been," said Hobgood, who stands 6 foot 4.

"I think that's a testament to me working hard. I've worked hard in past year. I came in at 250 pounds last year and I needed surgery. I'm just ready to build up on this year on what I've already done in the off-season and I think there are some good things to come this season."

He's long overdue, especially considering where the Orioles drafted him and how he was named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year coming out of Norco (Calif.) High School.

"It's rough," he said. "It's definitely a humbling experience, to say the least. I don't think I was cocky coming out of high school by any means, but I had accomplished some things and within about a two-month span I went from doing really well to my arm's killing me and just not performing like I'd like to perform and like everybody else thought I was going to perform.

"I can't believe it's 2013. I can't believe I'm going into my fifth season, technically, but I'm excited. All that's behind me and I've learned a lot from it, learned about things I can't do and things I need to do. I feel good."

Other observations from minor league camp:

Urrutia Tall.jpg* Cuban defector Henry Urrutia, wearing No. 94, performed some fielding drills in the outfield.

Urrutia is every bit the 6-foot-4 that he's listed, but he's about 15 pounds below his playing weight of 215. The Orioles believe his frame easily could hold 230, which should happen as his diet improves and he adds muscle. The many months spent in Haiti didn't benefit him in either department.

Urrutia knows a little English. He said "hi" to a couple of reporters and "OK' and "no problem" as he headed into the clubhouse.

* Pitcher Dan Klein, a third-round pick in 2010 out of UCLA who underwent the same procedure at Hobgood, remains on a rehab program. He had the surgery before Hobgood, but he's experienced a couple of setbacks and there's no timetable for him to get back on a mound.

The setbacks weren't related to any structural damage, just inflammation and tenderness in the shoulder.

* Mychal Givens, a second-round pick in 2009, continues to make the transition from shortstop to pitcher. He handled both roles at H.B. Plant (Fla.) High School, but the Orioles drafted him as a shortstop.

Givens threw for Peterson today and returned to the mound later for further instruction after completing fielding and conditioning drills.

The Orioles apparently haven't decided whether Givens will be a starter or reliever.

* Sander Beck, the Orioles' 33rd-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Maryland, received some instruction from Peterson during his bullpen session.

Beck went 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA last year in 17 relief appearances with Aberdeen. He allowed 28 hits and struck out 59 in 44 1/3 innings.

Fear the turtle.

Note: The Orioles and Brewers had scouts watching Dodgers pitcher Aaron Harang throw in a minor league game today in Glendale, AZ, according to the Los Angeles Times and MLB.com.

Harang is due $7 million this season and his 2014 deal includes a $7 million mutual option and $2 million buyout. The Orioles won't take on that kind of salary, so the Dodgers would have to absorb some of his contract.

Harang, 34, could be available in a trade, since the Dodgers have a surplus of starting pitching. He went 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 starts last season.

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