MadFriars' Interview: Justin Hancock

SAN ANTONIO, TX – In May of 2012 Justin Hancock, 23, was at a critical point in his young career after being sent down from Low-A Fort Wayne.

"I learned if you throw something without any movement I wasn't going to be doing this for that long," said Hancock after his first year in Eugene.

"And that I had to realize as a professional there are very few, if any, pitchers that are just going to go out there and blow away people."

He began last season in Fort Wayne, where on a roster of first round draft picks he was the best on the staff with a 1.73 ERA in 67.2 innings pitched. Unfortunately, he ran into some problems in the Cal League with a 5.14 ERA in 63 innings.

This season he has been on the disabled list with AA San Antonio with what was initially thought to just be a forearm strain, but has turned into something a little more serious and has limited him to just three starts and 14 innings. 

We caught up with Justin at the end of April in San Antonio.

We talked with you this winter on how you pitched well in Fort Wayne but got out of your comfort zone in Lake Elsinore. Do you feel like you are back in your zone in San Antonio?

Justin Hancock: I feel more comfortable especially with Austin [Hedges] behind the plate. I always feel like we have some pretty good chemistry. I've really enjoyed working with JJ [Missions' pitching coach Jimmie Johnson] even though he hasn't seen me throw as much as others.

Many of you guys always talk about JJ quite a bit. What does he do that is so effective with you guys?

Justin Hancock: I think it's more the mental side of the game. Just the way he interacts and talks with you during your bullpens and on the bench. I also really enjoyed working with Burt Hooten in Fort Wayne.

When you talk about pitching coaches at this level it's not so much of them teaching you anything but more about fixing something that is out of sync. Is that accurate?

Justin Hancock: Pretty much. At this level there isn't that much more to teach physically, but you have so much more to learn about the mental side of the game.

Isn't the case with you about just getting the proper angle so you are not only throwing down in the zone but also the angle which the ball is coming?

Justin Hancock: Oh yeah, definitely. When I'm on everything is hit on the ground. But then again when you pitch at the [Nelson] Wolff [Stadium] it doesn't really matter because nothing is getting out that goes up in the air [laughs].

I've seen a few balls hit a few weeks ago that were crushed and stayed in.

You mentioned Austin Hedges. How does he help you behind the plate?

Justin Hancock: It just seems to know what I want to throw. He knows what the dominant pitch is and when to throw it. Also his arm is amazing. You know that if there is a guy at first, he isn't going anywhere.

It is a big thing to have him back there.

When I interviewed you in Eugene you talked about the advantage of throwing the two-seam fastball. Is that still the pitch that you use the most?

Justin Hancock: Oh yeah. It is a big pitch and I've been working on throwing it on the other side of the plate this season as well.

Again, what do you throw?

Justin Hancock: Both fastballs, four and two-seamer. I throw kind of a hard slider around 85 to 87.

The four-seamer is more to change things up and the slider is more of a chase pitch.

Most of you guys were pretty good athletes in high school and played both ways. How has it been hitting at this level after not doing it for a few years?

Justin Hancock: It's definitely been an experience [laughs]. My first at-bat JJ told us just to hack. It's a little different seeing live pitching and its a lot of fun. It make you really feel like you are in the game. You are pretty good friends with Matt Wisler and Colin Rea. Which one among you is the better hitter?

Justin Hancock: [laughs] I don't know I haven't seen Colin hit. Matt and I hit in the off-season a little and had some competitions.

So you aren't going to run your mouth in the media about it?

Justin Hancock: [laughs] No way. I have enough problems up there.

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