With a career record of 4-15 and ERA of 5.48 in 158 innings since the Orioles selected him with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft, right-hander Matt Hobgood has gotten plenty of criticism from fans and he has come to expect that to be the case.
He continues to work to rehab his right shoulder and said he hasn’t felt right and completely healthy with the shoulder for even one day since he first pitched for Rookie League Bluefield in 2009.
Last year, he went 0-6 with an ERA of 8.76 between the Gulf Coast League O’s and the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds as he tried to work his back from the shoulder injury. He didn’t get into an affiliated game until June 20 and pitched just 37 innings, allowing 51 hits with 26 walks and 22 strikeouts.
“Not very good,” Hobgood said of his 2011 season. “It was the worst of my three seasons so far. My arm bothered me the whole year. It just didn’t feel good. Just haven’t really ever felt good since high school.
“You look at someone like (2011 first-round pick) Dylan Bundy - he’s been on a program for five or six years. I think I was someone coming out of high school that didn’t have a program. When you don’t have a program, you don’t have something to get back to. That can be rough sometimes.
“I was kind of a boy thrown into a man’s world somewhat. I anticipated doing what I did on the mound in high school, I had that confidence in myself. But that first outing in Bluefield I was 87 to 90 (with my velocity), so, and that’s where I’ve been these last three years.
“Last year I touched 91 or 92 a few times, but you know, it took me a while to get warm and my arm just didn’t feel good throughout the year.”
Hobgood was touching 96 and 97 mph with his fastball velocity in a high school playoff game in May 2009, right before the draft, but hasn’t come close to that with the Orioles. It’s been a bit of a mystery as to how, why and when his velocity dropped off. Reporters were told Hobgood was dealing with a strained shoulder last season, but he now says it was a little more involved than that.
“They said it was a strain, but I actually tore my rotator cuff,” Hobgood said. “It was like a 30 percent tear and I believe I tore it in 2009 in Bluefield, you know, due to the change of throwing program and throwing mechanics. I didn’t find out about it until the end of the 2010 season after I’d thrown 125 innings, or whatever it was, between Bluefield and Delmarva.
“When I went and saw (Dr. Lewis) Yocum, he said it was more of a lot of scapular instability and a lot of shoulder weakness. He could fix the tear, but there’s no point in fixing it, because the problem now is the scapular instability.
“When I got those MRIs back in 2010 and the beginning of last year, that’s what they showed but, you know, I’ve been trying to work through that. Little bit different than a strain, I think.”
Hobgood wants to be clear that he is not saying the injury with his right shoulder was incorrectly diagnosed.
“No, I’m saying when you were told it was a strain, it was really a tear and I personally believe I tore it back in Bluefield back in ‘09 which is why my velocity was down,” he said.
“The shoulder feels good (right now). I’ve been going to rehab ever since I came home in October after instructional league. I feel stronger now with the shoulder. I’m hopeful my velocity will come back this year. I think it will.”
Hobgood has been criticized for his weight and conditioning, or lack thereof,since he has been with the Orioles. He said he intends to pitch this year at his high school weight.
“I’m at 250 right now and want to drop another five to 10 pounds,” he said. “I was at 240 to 245 in high school. Pretty much since the day I got drafted there has been speculation about my weight. For me, it hasn’t really been about the weight, it’s been about the shoulder as for my velocity going down.”
Hobgood has had a busy offseason. He went to Oklahoma for a couple of weeks in October to work out with Dylan and Bobby Bundy. He is currently taking part in workouts at Athletes Performance Institute in Carson, Calif., and he has also spent some time training with Brady Anderson.
Hobgood said he is well aware that many fans have doubts about him and he said he doesn’t blame them for that.
“I’ve been working hard in rehab, busting my butt and that’s all I can do. I’m eating good. I’m doing the things that will give me the best opportunity to come back and have a good year,” he said.
“I don’t personally believe I pitched with any of my good stuff, like in high school, in a single pro game. Some of that’s my fault, because of the weight, you know, (and) the other issue is the arm. I maybe hit 94 once. It’s hard to do battle when you don’t have any weapons. I won’t sit here and say I will hit 94 or 95 in spring training, but I feel like my arm is getting stronger.
“I feel bad for (former Orioles scouting director) Joe Jordan getting some flack for me. I know Joe and my scout believe in me. I was as good as any player on that board that year and I went fifth. I haven’t been able to show why I went fifth. It all has to come together and I feel that will start this coming year.
“I am still just 21. I would have liked to be competing for a spot at Double-A going into this year, but that’s not the case. I still laugh at people that say I’m a bust. In my mind I am going to make it. I’m more disappointed than anybody in how things have gone.”