After undergoing Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow in July of 2004, Jim Hoey was simply hoping to top his career high of 42 innings pitched this season. Instead, the 23 year old former 13th round pick jumped from the lowest full-season affiliate in the Orioles' minor league system all the way to the big league team. In fact, the Orioles even made the dubious decision to demote their second best reliever to make room for Hoey a week prior to the rosters expanding in September. After pitching more innings than he had since his junior season at Rider University in 2003, Hoey looked worn down in the major leagues. But his dominating minor league performance has the organization thinking they have found a high leverage reliever that can pair with Chris Ray at the back of the bullpen for years to come.
DOB: 12/30/83 Height: 6-6 Weight: 200 B/T: R/R
Jim Hoey's age 23 season:
Jim Hoey was fortunate enough that his ligament replacement surgery actually strengthened his right arm. He added several ticks to his fastball, which was recorded at 100 MPH on a few occasions by minor league radar guns. He was more consistently in the 94-96 MPH range and he kept it low in the zone, though it was often without much movement.
Frederick Keys Pitching Coach Blaine Beatty was very impressed with Hoey's pitchability and the progress he has made on his secondary pitches. He told ITW "He has a good feel for the game. He knows what he's trying to do with hitters when he comes in the game. He knows where he's at in the lineup. He just has a very good feel for what he's trying to do. Plus, he's got major league stuff- his fastball and his slider. For him, you actually want to see him get in situations where he has to pitch a little bit. Sometimes, you learn more about guys when they're doing not so good, as opposed to when they're on a roll."
Hoey didn't actually struggle until his brief major league trial, but his two plus pitches will be more than enough for him to find long-term success in the majors.
Beatty also told ITW that Hoey was "within a year or two of helping a major league team" and there is no reason to doubt his estimate of Hoey's timetable. He will likely start 2007 out in Norfolk's bullpen, but he'll be in Baltimore to stay by September. The biggest obstacle for Hoey will continue to be staying healthy. Provided he can do that, he stands a good chance of becoming Chris Ray's primary set-up man by 2008.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com