MadFriars Q & A: David O'Hagan

One of the craftiest picks in the 2004 draft, David O'Hagan came to the Padres by way of Stanford University. He had a solid start to '04, but shoulder problems limited his appearances. After an offseason of rest and rehab O'Hagan, and the Padres, were looking forward to big things from the young right hander, but it wasn't to be. Surgery on the shoulder was performed almost immediately after O'Hagan arrived to camp. We caught up to the scholarly closer as he rehabs in Peoria.

MadFriars: First of all, how's the shoulder?

David O'Hagan: Doing well, apparently I'm ahead of schedule; I know I'm feeling good.

MadFriars: Stanford is one of the premier programs, how much has that helped you?

David O'Hagan: A tremendous amount, week in and week out I was playing against some of the best amateur players in the country. Competing at that high a level, you have to be able to rise to the occasion, and you always have to be pitching near or at your best, it really helped me learn how to prepare, and to not take any body for granted.

MadFriars: Is it disappointing to be left in extended Spring Training; if not for the injury did you think you were going to go to Fort Wayne?

David O'Hagan: Not really because my main priority is to get healthy, I can't do anything to expedite the process. Not so much disappointing as it was necessary, one of the things I've learned to do is ground myself. I know it sounds funny, but I am really looking forward to the rehab process.

MadFriars: Really, that's a new one.

David O'Hagan: If I didn't get excited about that then I might drive myself crazy. I can't control how fast I heal; all I can do is work hard. I'm not even throwing right now, and won't be throwing off a mound for awhile.

MadFriars: What happened? When did you have the surgery?

David O'Hagan: The first week of spring, I think it was March 9th. The thing was I saw the doctor after the season ended last year, and he told me that a he was optimistic that a conservative management approach, rehabbing, and shoulder specific exercises, basically everything except surgery, would get the arm right. Then when I started throwing off the mound just before camp I felt pain again. I notified the training staff, went to see the doctor again and we decided I had to have surgery.

MadFriars: Does it worry you that you might get tagged with the label of ‘injury prone'?

David O'Hagan: You've got to convince yourself that it doesn't matter what anybody else says. I know that if I can get myself throwing close to my former level I can get hitters out at this level. I really don't care what other people think if I can come back and throw with the same type of effort and have the same type of stuff I had before the injury. I'm still relatively young in terms of baseball and because of that I'm going to heal quicker than a guy who's in his 30s.

MadFriars: What did the Padres have you working on in the offseason?

David O'Hagan: I did a lot of general physical conditioning stuff and a lot of shoulder specific stuff. I got acclimated to a lot of light weight stuff for the shoulder. I could throw but it was a little awkward, and I had been working on a change up, and really felt I had made some headway with it. Who knows if it's going to come back after this long a layoff, but I'm hoping it does. Dave Rajsich helped me a lot with that change, he really worked with me.

MadFriars: Scout yourself? What do you throw?

David O'Hagan: I throw 88mph to 92mph; my best pitch by far is my curve or slider depending on the day. In college with metal bats, and the coaching staff controlling what I threw, I probably threw 40 to 45% breaking stuff. I'm starting to learn that with wooden bats you can work more off your fastball.

MadFriars: Do you think throwing that many breaking balls might have contributed to the arm problems you're having now?

David O'Hagan: It's really not the type of injury where you throw a pitch and your arm explodes. It's more like it starts to feel different, or weak over time, and by the time they get you in to a doctor it could be years ago that you really got injured. I threw way too much as a freshman and sophomore in college. I was just trying to catch the coach's eye, and of course when you're that young you feel good all the time, so I was throwing bullpen sessions almost everyday. People told me I was throwing too much, but I was just trying to get noticed and prove I should be pitching in games.

MadFriars: I've talked to a couple guys who came out of big time programs like Texas, Princeton and USC who have said that they felt like the Arizona Rookie League was actually a step down from what they were used to playing against, is that the case for you?

David O'Hagan: The only thing I'd say about the lower levels of minor league ball is this: everybody throws around 90mph, in college not everybody throws that hard but they are craftier, they know how to pitch more. The ability to throw offspeed pitches in fastball counts, pitch backwards a little bit, you don't see that with the younger pitchers, and so those guys have a tough time adjusting. I guess I'd say it this way, the raw talent is a little better in pros, but the college game, especially with the big time programs, has more polished talent.

MadFriars: The Padres are stocked with potential closers like Brad Baker and Rusty Tucker. How do you keep that from weighing on your mind?

David O'Hagan: I guess it just doesn't really weigh on me because my first priority is to pitch healthy, and then I'll go from there. I got a chance to see those guys pitch in spring, and I really felt like if I was healthy I could compete. They are fabulous pitchers, but if anything it makes me anxious to get out there, to show I belong with those guys. Right now though my main priority is to get healthy.

MadFriars: What is the one thing you'd like to improve on in the 2005 season?

David O'Hagan: My changeup, maybe, I'm not entirely sure. I've got to get my arm strength back up, work the rust off my delivery. I want to add the change to my repertoire because the past couple years the change has become a very dominant pitch in the Majors, every time I watch a game on TV the guy with change is getting guys out.

MadFriars: Have the Padres made any big adjustments to your delivery since you joined the organization?

David O'Hagan: The whole M.O. last summer was the coaching staff was going to allow the players to do what they did in their college careers. The college guys especially had some mileage on their arms from pitching all spring in college, so they basically just let us do what we were doing, evaluated what they had, and then if they are going to change us they'll do it in the instructional league or the following spring.

MadFriars: What's an ideal 2005 for you?

David O'Hagan: On the mound throwing pain free again. It's going to be a long road; I won't be throwing off a mound for six months. By the time I can throw off a mound I doubt I'll be pitching for a team this year, but I'm hoping to throw to hitters by the last couple weeks of the season. I'm rehabbing, and I'm in Arizona taking some satellite classes, because I'm working on my Masters Degree from Stanford. I got to go back to school during the fall to work on it. I'm getting my Masters in communications, so that's been good for me, because it helps keep me from going crazy since I can't pitch.

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