For those watching at the time, it had to be an intriguing matchup. LJ Hoes was in the batter’s box and Brian Matusz on the mound.
But then Hoes took a swing and one of the O’s top prospects hit a liner that drilled one of the O’s top pitchers in the left arm.
For Hoes, it was a scary moment. He didn’t want his name to get in the headlines for this. He didn’t want to be the guy that hit a line drive that injured Matusz.
“He was trying to get his work in,” Hoes said by phone last night. “I guess he was working on some things mechanical wise and he kind of left one over the plate. I was definitely shocked. It was a little scary and I didn’t want to be the guy to get blamed for hurting one of our best pitchers.
“I talked to him earlier today (after the liner), we are good friends. He said he’s going to be fine and told me not to worry about it. He said it’s not your fault, it happens.”
Relieved that Matusz will apparently be fine, Hoes can now go about finishing off his spring training workouts and getting ready for his fourth season in the organization.
The 2010 season was an eventful one for Hoes, the O’s third-round pick out of St. John’s High in Washington, D.C., in 2008.
He got off to a great start for the Frederick Keys and in mid-May was batting .290 and leading the Carolina League with 24 walks. His on-base percentage was .413 and his OPS was .808.
But then he missed over a month dealing with mono and it weakened him some during the rest of the season. But he says his health is great right now.
“I’m 100 percent and this is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time. I feel stronger than last year. I feel good,” he said.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s cuts at the major league level had a trickle-down effect in the minors and Hoes said he was moved from the Bowie to Frederick roster on Monday.
He said he’s been told right now he’s “on the bubble” and could start at either Frederick or Bowie. If he goes back to the Keys, he said he will approach that with the good attitude that he has always had.
“To be honest, I would stay professional and go about my business, but it would be disappointing. I felt like I did well enough to improve and move forward. I improved on my plate discipline and cut my errors in half. I feel like I can play there (at Double-A). But wherever I go I just have to keep playing hard and remember the long term goal to get to the majors,” Hoes said.
Hoes set out to improve his plate discipline and did that with flying colors last summer as his on-base average jumped from .299 in 2009 to .383. Now, he has his sights set on adding more pop in his bat. Last year, he had 31 extra-base hits in 108 games and a slugging percentage of .397.
“I would like to improve on the power numbers and hit some more homers. My body is more mature now. But I also want to keep the plate discipline that I had last year. I think being strong and healthy, my power numbers can improve,” he said.
At 21, this native of Bowie, Md., remains one of the O’s top young talents. In November, he was ranked as the club’s fourth best prospect by Baseball America and was rated second among infielders behind only Manny Machado.
Later today: I’ll post more with Hoes who will talk about the mental aspect of the game and also his defense at second base.
Join us this Friday: We’ll be at Hightopps to celebrate the start of the season. We’ll have another chat with fans and some giveaways between 6 and 7 p.m. Then stick around to watch the opening night game, O’s at Tampa, live on MASN.
Follow me on Twitter: @masnsteve.