Hoffpauir Keeping it all in Perspective

DES MOINES – Pacific Coast League pitchers caught a bad break last week when 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir was sent down by Chicago.

In his first game back with Class AAA Iowa, Hoffpauir doubled, homered and drove in four runs. He is 11-for-32 with four home runs and 16 RBI since his latest return to Des Moines, the city where Hoffpauir has established himself as a pro hitter.

The 28-year-old rookie left many Cubs fans wanting more after going 14-for-35 (.400) in limited playing time during his first two trips to the major leagues this season.

"To have a demotion is never fun, but in the same sense I don't think it was a performance-based demotion," Hoffpauir said.

"So I got caught in the numbers game. I'm going to make the most of it here in Des Moines and do my best to get back there as soon as possible."

A year ago to the date, Hoffpauir appeared to be on the fast-track to Chicago before a "freak injury," as he termed it, re-routed his path. He was batting .319 with 73 RBI and 16 home runs in 310 at-bats, but tore articular cartilage in his left knee and missed the final two months of the season.

The injury occurred when Hoffpauir was routinely rounding third-base and felt a pop. He said he feels no pain in the knee now other than the normal "wear-and-tear and stiffness" that comes from the season.

Hoffpauir's last stage of rehab came before Spring Training this year. But he went back on the disabled list after injuring his oblique muscle during an exhibition game against the University of Iowa just days before the I-Cubs' season opener.

The 6-foot-3, self-described "country boy" was drafted by Chicago in 2002 in the 13th round out of Lamar University in Texas. He was listed at only 180 pounds in 2003, but is now marked at 215 pounds.

"When I first had him, he was a line-drive hitter and a good little hitter that didn't have any power," said Iowa hitting coach Von Joshua, who has worked with Hoffpauir during the past five seasons. "Then he developed some power, and he stopped getting his hits… These last couple years, he's been hitting the ball with power and getting his hits also, so he's really made himself into a very, very good hitter. [An] excellent first-baseman … I mean, he just catches everything they throw over there."

The hard truth is that Hoffpauir won't play his natural position – first base – for the Chicago club in the near future with the presence of All-Star slugger Derrek Lee.

But Hoffpauir has played in the outfield with Iowa this season and possesses a "good enough" arm for the position, Joshua said.

With the July 31 trade deadline less than a month away, Hoffpauir has heard trade rumors involving his name. But he said he doesn't think or worry about it, nor let it affect his approach to the game.

"If I get traded, there's obviously somebody that wants me," Hoffpauir said. "If it happens, and someone is to say ‘you've been traded,' then we'll go from there."

Hoffpauir made his first major league start on May 21 after 613 games in the minors. He hit two doubles off former Houston starter Shawn Chacon after being called up on May 18 when left-handed reliever Carmen Pignatiello went on the disabled list. He was then sent down on June 3 when right-handed reliever Kevin Hart was summoned and nine days later was called up again after Hart was sent down.

Just last week, Hoffpauir was sent down again, but Joshua said that Hoffpauir has come back with an attitude of wanting to get right back to work.

"Hoffy's attitude is always great… I've never seen him ticked off or anything like that," Joshua said.

During his time in Chicago, Hoffpauir took into account the situation he was in.

"Obviously, when you get called up, you never want to ever come back," he said. "But in the situation where I was called up, it was because somebody went on the [disabled list] and obviously that person is going to come off the DL eventually. And when they do, most of the time people don't lose their spots because of an injury.

"I didn't expect to stay there, as far as that was concerned. But if something else happened, then [I thought] maybe I could fill in for somebody else. But all in all, it's been a great experience so far for me and hopefully, God-willing, I can get back there and spend a lot of time there," added Hoffpauir

Joshua said he believes Hoffpauir would be a good addition to any major league team, and Hoffpauir said his experience in the big leagues has convinced him that he can succeed at that level.

"I don't think there was ever a time where I doubted it," Hoffpauir said. "But just getting there and having the experience and being around, and to hang out with the guys that I've come up with and things like that, it's a lot of fun."

Northsiders Report Top Stories