Padres Prospect Interview: Dirk Hayhurst

Dirk doesn't resemble the character from Dragon's Lair. You know the guy who used to look surprised at every turn and every obstacle. While it is true, Dirk Hayhurst did not originally accept his role of being thrown back into the starting rotation, he learned that he could pitch just as well in that position.

Preconceived notions pushed Dirk Hayhurst into his frame of thought. That and the success he had as a reliever to begin the year with Fort Wayne was astounding. Twenty innings of relief through all of April and one relief appearance in May went scoreless.

The opposition hit just .133 off the 6-foot-3 right-hander.

But his thought process said he should stay in that role, even after he was elevated to starter and began to have success. In his third game as a starter, Hayhurst allowed six runs, all earned, on 11 hits. It had him questioning whether this was the wisest move.

Little did he know that would be the only real blemish on his time in Fort Wayne.

"Honestly out of college I kind of thought I would be a reliever – just because their typical starters seem to have low-90 plus fastballs, plus breaking pitches and I never really thought of myself as a power pitcher, a power starter," Hayhurst admitted candidly. "I would like to say I am more liken to Greg Maddux although that would be an insult to Greg I am sure.

"What I am saying is I work more on control. I thought that I could come out of the pen and throw strikes when they need me, get the job done and then disappear.

"When they told me they wanted me to try starting again I was kind of hesitant to just dive right into that because I have been doing so well out of the pen and I kind of developed a niche there and I liked it. I liked the chance to throw everyday. But then again I do come from an organization at my college where I was a great starter there and I know how to win so hesitant at first but once I got the hang of it I guess I realized I can throw strikes and get people out and what organization cant use that. I should really quit trying to figure out what they need and just do what I know I can do.

His numbers after that six run outburst suggest he does have a little Maddux in him. Over his next eight starts, Hayhurst would not allow more than two runs in a start. In fact, he allowed just nine runs over that eight game span in 50 innings of work – a 1.62 ERA.

The most important aspect of his game was throwing strikes. On June 2, that paid off with a ten strikeout performance. Hayhurst called it a fluke but when he can spot his pitches effectively in the zone, the kid from Canton is virtually unhittable.

Through June, Hayhurst had walked just six batters in 70.2 innings. His control faltered some down the stretch but he still only walked 19 in 118.1 innings with the Wizards.

"I have just been like the turtle of the race," says Hayhurst. "Slow and steady. Consistency is just the way I try and market myself. I just try and throw as many strikes as I can and some days I give up more hits than others but I am not going to walk a lot of guys. I might not K a lot of guys but I will keep giving our team a chance to win hopefully by pitching smart and pitching ahead."

Hayhurst, the same guy who went 9-4 with a 2.66 ERA dares to call his stuff "mediocre." When he was a senior and breaking records, the talk wasn't centered around him but his junior teammate that was throwing 95 miles per hour.

"As far as mediocre goes, I don't know if deep down I believe that," Hayhurst concedes. "If you can spot up three pitches, that is definitely not mediocre pitchability.

"They rate pitches where 90 plus is above average or better this and better that. And you hear pitchers ranking themselves or being ranked, we are all being ranked and critiqued, so I guess if I had to stack myself up against the modern major league system of ranking I would say I am pretty average.

"I do believe I have better than average control."

Hayhurst has been able to stay sharp on the mound and wields a tongue essay-style. While his tools may be different than what is used in Dragon's Lair, the effectiveness is the same. He lives and dies by his precision with the tools he has been blessed with.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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