After the Orioles' organizational meetings in Arizona ended last month, O's minor league pitching coordinator Dave Schmidt watched some O's pitchers work in some AFL games and then he headed for California.
He spent some time with Matt Hobgood, the O's top pick in the 2009 draft, who went 3-7, 4.40 in 94 innings last year with the Delmarva Shorebirds.
Hobgood dealt some with back spasms and shoulder soreness last year. And, it's no secret the right-hander could have been in better shape as well.
The O's have addressed and continue to address the topic of conditioning with the 20-year-old hurler. That was one key reason for Schmidt's visit to Hobgood.
"It was clear to everybody, Matt included, that he could be in better shape. To his credit, he understands that and is addressing that.
"It's not like we are saying, you had a bad year because you were overweight. That is not what we are saying to him. We tried to put it in a positive light in that 'Matt, you could reach your great potential if you put in the work and come to camp in tip-top shape.'"
Schmidt said Hobgood made some strength and conditioning improvements in the second half of last year, working with the Shorebirds' staff.
"When he left Delmarva at the end of the year, he left with a plan of conditioning and a plan was put together to take him from the end of Delmarva's season to Nov. 1.
"He followed that well and told me, that, as of Nov. 1, he was ahead of where he was the previous Nov. 1. On Nov. 1, he started workouts three to five days a week at API, Athletes Performance in California.
"He sat with the head of that program to work on specific things with cardiovascular and also some diet tips, hints and guidelines. When I saw him around the 11th or 12th of November, he was very excited about where he was so far," Schmidt said.
"He's been working out with other players. It seems to work better for him to have other people to work out with. He's very determined to come back in good shape this spring and he is very focused.
"He has a lot of pride in himself and last year didn't go the way he wanted it to. He was disappointed in the way he pitched and he understands his physical conditioning had something to do with that. So far, from what I saw and heard, it looks like it's going well."
Schmidt and the O's realize Hobgood may never be in the condition like some of the best-conditioned pitchers in the game.
"We need to also remember, this is a big guy. He's not going to be a track star. We just want him to get in as good a shape as he can for him. We are not trying to compare him to people with other body types, this is a big kid.
"What we are after is to take off some of the excess he doesn't need. But you don't want him to slim down to where he feels weak. I've seen people that lose so much weight, they lost some velocity. So there is a happy medium to get where he feels strong."
I asked Schmidt if the team has given Hobgood specific goals to reach before spring training.
"No. There has not been a weight number thrown at him. We simply want him to work as hard as he can and come to camp in the best shape he can. Then, we'll continue to work during the season.
"There is not an end date, like March 1, you are done. Being a pro athlete is not a destination, it's a journey and you continue to work toward something. He can't say, I can come into camp at a specific weight or number, it won't work.
"March 1, you set as a goal to come in and be in good shape, but we will have other things for him to work toward past that."
Coming soon: I'll have more with Dave Schmidt about Matt Hobgood. As usual, Dave was open and candid with his comments and provided quality insight on a player. I have to think he is one of the factors why the O's pitchers in the minors have done well in recent years.