Hancock, 22, started last year at Fort Wayne but an 0-4 record and 6.95 ERA sent him back to extended spring and later on to Eugene in the Northwest League. He turned it around with the Emeralds, showing the promise that made the Padres go over slot for him in 2011. He went 5-2 with a 1.61 ERA and led the staff in innings pitched with 72.2 as he held the Northwest League batters to a .204 batting average.
As with many young pitchers the big turning point with Hancock came last year when he began to work harder and master his two-seam fastball as he told MadFriars' at the end of last year.
This year, along with Joe Ross, Hancock is one of the mainstays of the TinCaps rotation with a 2.00 ERA in his first five starts this year.
At the end of spring training we spoke with Justin on what went right last year, throwing the two-seamer and cooking with Matt Wisler.
You have to feel great after the season you had last year and coming into camp?
Justin Hancock: Yeah, I had a pretty good year in Eugene and really learned a lot out there. It was a struggle coming down from Fort Wayne but I got back on track there.
You came down from Fort Wayne and it would have been easy for you to get down on yourself but you didn't. What did you do mentally to turn it around?
Justin Hancock: I think it was really all mental. It was a big struggle coming down but Murph [Pat Murphy, the manager of the Emeralds last year and current manager of the Tucson Padres] really worked with me on what my strengths were and how to really use them.
You talked last year about how you got better at keeping the ball down, mainly throwing your two-seam fastball more.
Justin Hancock: In Eugene is where I first really started to throw the two-seamer. I got a lot more ground balls and really began to pitch off of my fastball.
When you say "fastball," that is really several pitches correct?
Justin Hancock: Yes that is true. The two-seamer is really tough to control and I got much better at it when I went Eugene. I just started to really work on throwing it in bullpens with my locations.
You have a four-seamer, two-seamer, change and curve. Are you really working more on just consolidating pitches than developing a slider?
Justin Hancock: Yes, pretty much just go with what I got.
Still rooming with Matt Wisler?
Justin Hancock: Oh yeah, Matt and I have been here since early January working out.
When we talked to Matt last year he was telling us how skilled he is with his George Foreman Grill. Is that true?
Justin Hancock: Matt can cook a little bit. He does all the cooking for us but we have to clean. But he can really cook, so it works out