The O's 2009 draft: Addressing some pitching injuries with Joe Jordan

When it comes to the Orioles' 2009 draft, Matt Hobgood is not the only pitcher the O's selected then that has dealt with or is currently dealing with injury issues.

The club selected 12 pitchers among the first 20 rounds in that draft, signing 10 of them. Of those 10, six pitched fewer than 50 innings last summer.

They selected six pitchers in the first 10 rounds and five of those hurlers dealt with some type of injury last season.

Here is a rundown:

Round 1 - Hobgood: Currently rehabbing a strained rotator cuff.

Round 4 - Right-hander Randy Henry: Had Tommy John surgery in high school and dealt with what the club said are some minor setbacks in 2010. He pitched just 23 innings last season.

Round 5 - Left-hander Ashur Tolliver: Dealt with some shoulder tenderness and was limited to 39 innings with Single-A Aberdeen last summer.

Round 7 - Left-hander Aaron Wirsch: While his arm was sound, he dealt with oblique and hamstring injuries last summer and has pitched just 28 innings in 2009 and 2010.

Round 10 - Right-hander Jake Cowan: Had some shoulder issues in 2010 and went 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA in 41 innings and seven starts with Single-A Delmarva.

Righty Ryan Berry, the ninth-round pick, had a shoulder injury in college at Rice in 2009 and the O's limited his innings somewhat last year. Still he pitched well and worked 117 1/3 innings between Delmarva and Single-A Frederick, going 2-5 with a 3.22 ERA.

In addition to the pitchers, 2009 second-round pick Mychal Givens and third-rounder Tyler Townsend also had some injuries and spent time on the disabled list last summer.

"That first summer, even for the guys that got to pitch, it's just about getting through it," Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan said. "They are going to be different guys this year, because now they know what's in front of them.

"I just look back at a David Hernandez and some of these guys, you saw that second full season all the sudden their stuff stays there, it doesn't go down. They know in the winter what they need to do."

Jordan knows that while pitchers taken later in 2009 could blossom and help make that a really good draft for the Orioles, still a lot of people remain fixated on his top pick and he doesn't back away from that.

"In my opinion, there is one player in the '09 draft that has put somewhat of a dark cloud over this and that is Matt Hobgood. I'm not saying that in a negative way toward him," Jordan said. "We feel bad that Givens ruptured a tendon in his thumb, but he looked good when he was out there. Townsend swung the bat well when he was out there. But, good lord, how many hamstring injuries can we have?

"We've got to get Hobgood healthy and built up. He's got to go out and pitch and do what I told everyone he would do. That is what this is about."

Still, pitchers like Henry, who has thrown 93 to 95 mph, and Tolliver, an athletic lefty who has also thrown at times in the low to mid 90s, could bounce back this summer and realize their full potential.

"This is a fickle business," Jordan said. "Six months from now, this could all be a non-issue, you just don't know. But I like the (2009) draft. Obviously, I'm aware of one or two situations where it hasn't been what I said it would be. Hey, I've got to stand up and recognize that.

"I was at a workout recently here in Oklahoma and some pitchers were throwing. I was talking to Bobby Bundy, I took him in 08 and didn't sign him till late.

"Came in the next year and it was vanilla, I was sick. He was throwing just 86 to 89 (mph) and it was terrible. I was like 'what the heck is this?' But he went home and worked his butt off and last summer, he's back up to 94, touched 95. And his breaking ball is better and he's added a slider. It just happens, I don't care what round you take them in.

"We need players to have as much pride as Bobby Bundy did. He said 'I'm not taking this. This is unacceptable.' He went home and went to work and well, he was a different guy this year. That is what we need some other guys to do," Jordan said.

I asked Jordan if he has done any second guessing over some of his selections? Did he take on too much risk in drafting pitchers that were previously injured like Henry, Berry and Cameron Coffey?

"You don't get any mulligans in our business. Obviously, there is a couple I'd like to look at again, but you don't get a chance to do that," he said. "I like what we are trying to do. I think we know what we are looking at. We need to find high upside guys in the draft, because that's the only way we are going to get them. It's my job to be smart about that.

"Maybe, if there is one thing I can do, let's make sure we continue to do that, but also let's be smart and if we get something that we feel like, maybe doesn't have as much upside, but there is more certainty, blend them a little bit more. Maybe that is something I need to look at.

"But this will be my seventh draft here. I think the body of work has been good. There are a handful of things I wish I could look at again, but I can't. It is what it is."

Coming soon: Jordan talks more specifically about some of the pitchers mentioned in this story, any injuries they have had and how they are doing heading into spring training.

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