When evaluating pitchers, arm strength is usually the first thing an evaluator talks about. As a high school record-holder in shot-put and discus, Ryan Hughes has arm strength in spades.
Although Hughes is 23 years old, he is a newcomer to pitching. An all-state track star at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California, Hughes didn't play baseball in high school. He began his pitching career at Chabot College in San Leandro and was drafted in the 16th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008, but elected to continue with college. He joined the Nebraska baseball team in 2010, but was used sparingly in one season with the Cornhuskers before being drafted in the 16th round by the A's last season.
Given his lack of innings over the past three seasons, Hughes has been brought along carefully by Oakland. He threw only 13.1 innings for the Arizona Rookie League A's last season. This year, he spent the first half of the season at extended spring training before joining the Vermont Lake Monsters at the start of the New York-Penn League season.
A hard-throwing lefty, Hughes has a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings thus far for Vermont. He allowed three runs in his first appearance of the season but has allowed only one run over his last 11.2 innings pitched.
Donald Moore caught-up with Hughes last weekend for a Q&A.
Donald Moore: Hi Ryan. How are you doing adjusting to proball?
Ryan Hughes: You really don't think about it, to be honest with you. They [the A's] do a good job about not giving you much time, other than baseball, which is obvious. It's a lifestyle more than it is a job. So you go after it everyday. You're so focused on trying to accomplish the short-term goals that eventually hopefully develop into a long-term career in the major leagues. But you're so focused on the short-term goals that it just makes days go by and the season goes by. Before you know it, the season is over.
DM: What are your goals for this season?
RH: To contribute to this team as much as possible and win as many games as possible.
DM: What is your greatest strength?
RH: My work ethic, plain and simple.
DM: Any pregame routine?
RH: Not really. We always do the infield/outfield [practice]. As a pitcher, you don't play everyday, so it's fun to play [during infield and outfield practice] and it makes me feel like a baseball player. It's embarrassing going in [to the clubhouse] all cleaned up!
DM: Toughest batter you faced?
RH: You know what, it's probably a bad thing to admit, but I don't pay attention to who's in the box. You've got your big boppers in every lineup and stuff, but typically I don't pay attention to batters. I pay attention to hit my spots and let the percentages and defense work for you.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
RH: Giants, but I shouldn't admit that.
DM: Favorite player?
RH: Randy Johnson.
DM: Is there any person, player or coach who has taught you the most about baseball?
RH: Gosh, there has been so many coaches that I cannot pinpoint one in particular. John Wasdin, not just because he's our pitching coach, but that guy is one incredible guy. As far as his knowledge of the game and his ability to transfer that over to you and relate what he knows, and you know, find that similar ground to get the most out of you. He's absolutely amazing.
DM: Favorite city you played in?
RH: Lincoln, Nebraska.
DM: Craziest thing you've ever seen on a diamond?
RH: I'd honestly have to think about that. There is some wild stuff that goes down. There was this YouTube video of this coach freaking out and throwing bats and stealing bases, that's got to be up there.
DM: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
RH: Hopefully in the big leagues. Hopefully I will established myself in the big leagues by that time.
DM: Best of luck to you Ryan.