Name: John Hussey
DOB: November 2, 1986
He was a first-pitch strike machine during the Instructional League last season, hitting on 74.5 percent of his initial offerings to put him ahead in the count. Only 14 of the 55 batters he faced were up 1-0 against him.
It was a far cry from his work in Eugene and Fort Wayne during the 2007 season.
Hussey issued a free pass to 64 batters in 76.2 innings across two leagues that season while also plunking 12 batters and tossing 17 wild pitches.
This came on the heels of a banner season that saw him tout a 2.44 ERA in the Arizona Rookie League, walking 16 in 44.1 innings.
At the heart of the issue was confidence and some off the field stress that found its way between the lines. Blessed with a plus breaking ball, Hussey rarely threw the pitch and began to overthrow on his fastball, causing it to become erratic.
The mental side of the game spawned and multiplied, following him from Fort Wayne where he tried to do too much to Eugene where he could not get into a rhythm. It didn't matter if it was starting or relief, Hussey would get in trouble and could not close the gap quick enough to avoid disaster.
When he arrived at the Instructional League, Hussey simplified things. When he was trying to throw the ball through a wall, his mechanics would falter and his arm angle would drop to three-quarters from its over the top slot. To his credit, Hussey worked on the mechanical side of his game and staying consistent with his delivery, adding more depth to his curveball and a more consistent line to home plate.
While his fastball did not reach the 92 MPH he touched in 2006, it did spot up well on both corners and was being called for strikes. His off-speed pitches were also crisper and the confidence was evident in his game.
Part of that came from not having a radar gun in use at Instructs. It is easy for a pitcher to focus on how fast they throw rather than how precise the control of the pitches are. Hussey was one player who benefited greatly from that ploy.
Hussey came out of the Instructional League as a co-winner of the Most Improved Pitcher. Tremendous strides were made and a building block for the subsequent year.
Hussey came to Spring Training ready to perform but came down with elbow soreness that developed into a more serious injury. Tommy John surgery was performed and the 2008 season became a wash.
"Hussey's coming along well," Padres pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "He's right on schedule, maybe a touch ahead of schedule, feels good, looks good, getting big and strong. So, hopefully he'll be one of those guys who comes back better from it too."
When healthy, Hussey has one of the better curveballs in the system – a true plus pitch that has plenty of depth and more 12-to-6 movement.
His fastball sits in the high-80s and touched 90 – a drop from when he was hitting 90 with regularity and touching 92 MPH. Spotting the pitch early in the count had been troublesome but cleaning up his mechanics gave him back control.
His changeups remains a work in progress but had made significant strides at instructs and was looking like a quality pitch when used in conjunction with his fastball and breaking ball.
Going under the knife always brings forth questions. With his mental state questioned in the past, will Hussey have more growing pains in his return, especially when the command of his pitches is in question as the rehab process continues?
Hussey will have to work hard through the process and remember not to sacrifice mechanics for greater velocity. It is an ascending stairway he climbs and must be taken in small steps. Leaps will put him further back.
Conclusion: Hussey has three quality pitches and his fastball velocity should return as he repeats his delivery. First, however, he must be healthy and the 2009 season will be one spent building back the arm strength to compete for the '10 season. While this is a setback, if he handles this correctly, he can be even better than before.
On the plus side, Hussey gained 20 pounds of muscle during the rehab process, growing into his body. His throwing program began in September and he is on track for a successful return.
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