Hoorelbeke Getting Chance In Arizona

In baseball as in all life, one man's misfortune often is another man's gain. That might well be the case for Casey Hoorelbeke. Casey has been assigned to take the spot vacated by Greg Miller in the Arizona Fall League. Miller was shut down after incurring some soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder. Even though there was no structural damage, it was decided not to risk his arm any further so he's done for 2005 with Hoorelbeke taking his place.

It's certainly a boost up for Casey, who spent the year at high Class A Vero Beach. Now, he'll go up against some of the best young prospects in all of the minors leagues with most of them having played Double A. It's the latest move in what has been a year of change for Hoorelbeke.

After spending his rookie season throwing from the more conventional over-the-top arm slot, Casey began experimenting with a drop down delivery ala Steve Schmoll in spring training. When it was shown that he could get as much velocity as well as more movement from the new angle, he was kept at it.

The other move instituted at the beginning of the season was to switch the righthander from the starting rotation to the bullpen. He became an extremely reliable middle man for Vero Beach, winding up with a 9-3, 2.40 record. Used occasionally as a closer, he also recorded four saves.

Along the way, he dropped his arm angle even further down so that now he's almost a submariner. Then, in the Instructional League, he added another pitch -- a splitter which has started to prove effective.

In all, it's been quite a year for Casey who had given up the game in high school when he topped out at 81 mph . "I decided this was not my game," he remembers. Then , as he grew to 6-8, 245, he concentrated on basketball, winning a scholarship to Lewis & Clark State in Idaho where his family had moved from California.

He received some All-American recognition on the court and also resumed playing baseball at the school but was drafted in neither sport. Returning to California, he played semi-pro ball there along with his older brother Jesse. Dodger scout George Genovese spotted Jesse and signed him, then subsequently signed Casey whose velocity had increased considerably from those early days (He's regularly in the low 90's with his fast ball, now).

Both were older when contracted and Jesse has since been released by the Dodgers. He's currently a free agent after spending 2004 in the Mariners system. Casey's 25 now so the Dodgers seem to be speeding up his development with the Arizona assignment the latest move in that direction.

It's fine with him for he's glad people have noticed that despite being an unhealded free agent, he's put together two strong seasons in the lower minors. This move should aid in getting him ready to pitch for Jacksonville next year.