Cubs Prospect Interview: Arik Hempy

Left-hander Arik Hempy made a fast return from Tommy John Surgery to notch seven wins while posting a 3.58 ERA in 13 starts with the University of South Carolina this year. The Cubs then selected Hempy with their 17th round pick in this year's draft. After making an introductory appearance in the Arizona League on Tuesday, the soon to be 23-year-old is now ready to go to work at Class-A Boise.

Was it an easy decision to sign this time around? You were drafted once before by Baltimore a couple of years ago.

Arik Hempy: It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. The coaches (at SC) were pushing me to stay because I had another year of eligibility left. I think they just wanted the leadership and everything. I had a talk with my family and my agent about what the best deal was for me. I'm getting up there in age and have battled injuries. I felt I was healthy and that it was a good time to go out when I'm getting back into the stride of things.

How pleased were you with the numbers you put up after undergoing Tommy John Surgery (in 2006)?

Arik Hempy: I was really pleased and the doctors did an awesome job with my surgery. I came back really fast after it and wasn't expecting to be able to provide too much for the team, but I came out and did the best that I could. My numbers turned out to be all right and I think in the long run, I came in with a fresh arm and did the best I could under the circumstances.

Do you see yourself starting or relieving this summer?

Arik Hempy: I've been a starter for as long as I can remember. The last I'd heard is that (Saturday) I'll get about three innings of relief work in just to get my innings up; then they're going to put me into the five-day rotation to become a starter. I can't really see myself doing anything else; it's what I've been doing my whole life. I really like getting out there and getting the game started off on a good pace, and getting us (on and off) of the field.

With your frame and build (6-foot-4, 245 pounds), you seemingly have the body of a power pitcher.

Arik Hempy: Yeah, my velocity is not quite there yet because I'm only 15 months removed from Tommy John and they say it doesn't really come back until 18 to 22 months. My velocity has been clocked up to 95 (mph) and my fastball is definitely a dominant pitch. I throw all four-seamer's, but I tend to roll over a little bit so that makes it tough on some hitters.

I'm definitely a power guy and since (the surgery), I've really developed a decent changeup because my velocity hasn't been quite there yet, so I can't just blow it by people; I have to learn how to pitch and be able to get them out with something other than my fastball.

What's the full rundown of your repertoire?

Arik Hempy: Fastball, changeup and curveball.

Now that you've had over a year of pitching since the operation, do you feel you're able to command your breaking ball as well as you were before?

Arik Hempy: Yeah, I was really kind of skeptical of whether it would come back. I had started getting it back toward the end of the season and it was really sharp, and a really good out-pitch to get batters out. I wasn't expecting it to come back like it did, but when I started throwing them, I hadn't lost anything and I was throwing it the same way as I was (before). It was a big (weight) off my shoulders.

What are some of the things you've been working on or adjusting to since getting to Arizona and now Boise?

Arik Hempy: It's a lot different here than in college of course; you've got the wooden bats. In college ball, you have two or three outstanding hitters that you can really work around. Up here at this level, everybody, the 1-2-3 hitters, are like the 3-4-5 hitters; you can't really pitch around anybody because they all can hit. That's probably the biggest adjustment that I've had to make. The key to getting outs up here is just having a good changeup; the same arm speed as the fastball. That's really helping out.

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