In a way, Matt Hobgood is relieved that doctors say he has a strained rotator cuff.
To him, that perhaps is the best explanation yet why the fastball velocity he had in three high school seasons, has never surfaced in two years of pro ball with the Orioles.
Hobgood, the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, had an MRI last week and now doctors have put him on a four- to six-week rehab program to strengthen his shoulder and they say surgery is not needed.
In a Wednesday afternoon phone interview, Hobgood told me he felt this was a “minor setback” and said he felt certain he would be pitching during the 2011 season.
Recently he had been working out at Athletes Performance Institute in California and felt he was making real progress on his weight and conditioning.
“I did some light throwing in the middle of December, strictly to work on mechanics stuff, not start any throwing program. I just noticed there was some discomfort trying to get my elbow above my shoulder, which is where my arm slot should be.
“Did it once, it didn’t feel that well. Did it a second time and then, you know, I made calls to the appropriate people,” he said.
Hobgood, who missed time this past season with back spasms and shoulder soreness, isn’t certain exactly how or when he hurt his shoulder. All he knows is that, after pitching with velocity between 92 and 94 his senior year, topping then at 96 and 97, he was throwing from 87 to 90 last year and just once touched 93 in a game.
He now feels the shoulder issue is the reason for the velocity loss.
“Exactly. Again, I couldn’t tell you when it happened. I wasn’t hiding anything before the draft, they didn’t get damaged goods. I didn’t ask to be chosen there, I went out and had the senior year I did because I put in hard work and I’ve continued to do that.
“Things haven’t gone my way. I was just as dumbfounded as everyone else when I showed up to Bluefield (in 2009) throwing 88 and this past year at 88.
“I think now, assuming rehab goes well and I get back to what I do, I think things are going to be a lot better.”
Hobgood said he had never before had any shoulder injury.
“That was what was surprising to me. I was at my strongest in high school. I was up to 93, 94 my sophomore year, hit 98 my junior year and was up to 97 just about every game I pitched my senior year.
“I have always thrown hard and always felt strong. I try to finish what I started and go deep into games. I want to be a workhorse, not a five and done guy. Like Nolan Ryan, finish what you start and throw 200 plus innings a year.”
In case anyone is wondering if his workouts recently at API could have led to the shoulder issue, Hobgood said no way to that.
“No, no, API is great. Nothing they did or had me do has done anything. It could have started all the way back in Bluefield.
“I think there is some confusion among some people that I don’t work hard or don’t do what I am told. I’ve done everything the Orioles have wanted me to do. I’ve worked my butt off. Some people just say he’s a big guy and is not working at it.
“I can’t eat like my best friend and stay 190 pounds like him. I have to watch what I eat but I think people think I’m sitting on my butt and not working hard. I’m a competitor and want to perform at a high level,” Hobgood said.