Hobgood arrives early at O's minor league camp

Minor league pitchers and catchers are not scheduled to officially report to the O's Twin Lakes Park complex in Sarasota until March 2nd, but several players arrived early to get a jump on the season.

That list includes last June's first-round pick, right hander Matt Hobgood, who has been in Sarasota since February first.

The 19-year-old that the O's selected with the fifth overall pick last June, has spent most of this winter learning to eat better and reducing his body fat.

He worked out at the Athletes Performance Institute in Carson, California from November 9 through late January, then days later reported to Sarasota.

"That was really good for me. The Orioles recommended it. I worked out with some big league guys and minor league guys. It was a good experience and did a lot for me physically.

"About a week into API, I went with a company that delivers your food and was on an 1800-calorie per day plan. I did that plan for about a month."

Hobgood said he reduced his body fat from 22 to 17 percent, a nice reduction for about three months of work. Hobgood is 6'4", 245 pounds and he'll likely play at a similar weight this year.

"I didn't get to where they wanted me weight wise. I lost about 17 pounds of body fat and gained nine pounds of muscle. That's 26 pounds total if I had taken off that muscle.

"The goals I've set for myself are for the long run and they can be achieved. But as for this off season, I felt I did really well for that time frame. Physically I am ahead of where I was at last year at Bluefield."

Hobgood went 1-2, 4.73 in eight starts last summer at Bluefield and his goal this year is to make Delmarva's starting rotation come Opening Day.

"I am really excited, going into my first (full) year. I want to go into spring training strong. I think this year will be a learning and growing year."

The list of other pitchers already throwing at the O's minor league complex includes Cameron Coffey, Vito Frabizio, Randy Henry, Jarret Martin, Brandon Erbe, Brandon Cooney and Brent Allar.

At the end of last season, Baseball America named Hobgood as the 4th best prospect in 2009 in the Appalachian League.

Here were Baseball America's comments then on Hobgood:

The fifth overall selection in the 2009 draft, he signed for $2.442 million after starring as a two-way player for Norco (Calif.) High. Hobgood debuted in the Appy League, where he reminded one league manager of Curt Schilling with his burly 6-foot-4, 245-pound build. As it did with Schilling, it may take Hobgood a while to harness his quality raw stuff.

Hobgood muscles up on his heavy fastball, which ranges from 90-95 mph, but more than one opposing manager noted his struggle to locate the pitch. The same was true with his high-70s curveball and changeup. His entire arsenal flashed plus potential, even with present erratic command.

With a mature body already, Hobgood probably throws as hard now as he ever will. His clean, repeatable mechanics do lend hope, however, that he'll iron out his command. If he does, he has the potential to be a No. 2 starter.

Coming later today - More comments from Hobgood as he talks about his current bullpen sessions, his fastball velocity and the pitch that he has improved from last year.

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