Hobgood will miss 2012 season due to shoulder surgery

March 23, 2012|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. — Former Orioles' first-roundpick Matt Hobgood, who has battled ineffectiveness and injury in his brief pro career, will have right rotator-cuff surgery on April 2 and is expected to miss all of the 2012 season.

The 21-year-old Hobgood, whom the Orioles selected in the first round (fifth overall) in 2009, was shut down earlier this month with shoulder discomfort, something that previously has hampered him in his career.

He was examined by Dr. Craig Morgan earlier this week and surgery to repair the shoulder was recommended, according to John Stockstill, the Orioles director of player development.

Morgan, a shoulder specialist, will perform the surgery in Wilmington, Del., and will be "sizing down" Hobgood's rotator cuff so that it fits better with the shoulder capsule. It often takes 12 to 18 months for a pitcher to recover fully from shoulder surgery.

"I think he feels like this is a step in getting back to where he was," Stockstill said.

In his first three seasons in the minors, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Hobgood struggled to live up to the hefty $2.42-million bonus he received in 2009. He could never consistently replicate the mid-90s fastball he flashed in high school and also was criticized early on for his conditioning.

This year the club was pleased with the shape that Hobgood was in when he came into camp.

"You give the kid credit. He worked very hard, he came in top shape and it just didn't work, his shoulder didn't feel right," Stockstill said. "Hopefully, this will repair it."

Said Orioles manager Buck Showalter about the news: "It's not something that (Hobgood) can't overcome. Just because something is delayed, doesn't mean it is denied. We'll try to get it right and get him back to the form that made him someone we coveted."

Tillman still in rotation mix

Right-hander Chris Tillman who has never pitched in relief in his big-league career, threw a perfect eighth inning on Thursday against the Minnesota Twins. And that raised eyebrows that maybe the 23-year-old former top prospect is being considered for the bullpen.

Showalter didn't completely shoot down that notion, but said that wasn't the intention of Thursday's outing. Pitching coach Rick Adair wanted to make sure Tillman stayed on turn.

"It was his turn and I wanted to keep the ball in his hand," Showalter said. "I know Rick was talking about for his next outing he'd like to get him out there for a little more extended period to keep his arm strength, so we could go either way with him."

Showalter said moving Tillman to the bullpen is something that has been talked about at times, but he currently remains in the mix for a rotation spot.

"That's come up two years ago, a year ago. You've also got to think about a lot of spinoffs of that," he said. "One thing we think we're going to be a lot better this year is the depth we have behind us. I'm not going to penalize [Tillman] just because that's something he would provide there."

Tillman said he has not been informed of any potential change in his role and that he is simply attempting to pitch his best. He has allowed just three earned runs in 9 1/3 innings (2.89 ERA) this spring. He struck out the side Thursday and is hitting 96 mph with his fastball.

"It was nothing new, I have had that going all spring," he said. "I just had a couple of my off-speed pitches going, too."

Berken close to returning

Orioles right-hander Jason Berken, who has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury all spring, appears close to pitching in his first Grapefruit League game.

Berken threw one inning in a minor league game against the Red Sox's Triple-A team Thursday at Twin Lakes Park, his first live game action this spring, and said he feels his injury woes are behind him.

"Based on how I felt (Thursday) I really feel like I'm further ahead than I expected and things have been really good," Berken said. "I really think the best way to say it is, I didn't think about it. I think that's kind of a good gauge in terms of how I felt. I wasn't worried about it and I was pitching like there wasn't an issue."

Berken was clocked in the 92 to 94 range and he mixed his pitches well, incorporating his change-up and curveball into his arsenal.

"He came in [Friday]with a great look," Showalter said. "I can tell you how frustrated he's been with everything. I told him, 'Your wife must have been happy to see the real Jason show up last night,' and he said, 'Yeah.' A little more bounce in his step. (It) looks like we're in the process of getting him back completely."

Orioles beat Red Sox, 6-5

In what was one of the more encouraging signs of the spring so far for the Orioles, right fielder Nick Markakis hit a two-run homer in the third inning against Boston's Clay Buchholz to break a tie in an eventual 6-5 Orioles' win.

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