RC Interview with Keaton Hayenga

Keaton Hayenga in 2007 was one of the top high school prospects in the northwest, but his senior season was derailed when he tore his labrum sliding back into a base. The Royals drafted Hayenga that summer in the 31st round, then lured him away from a commitment to Washington State with a $300,000 bonus. It has been a long road back for Hayenga, who spoke with RC last week about his recovery.

Royals Corner: So Keaton, how's your arm feeling?

Keaton Hayenga: It feels good. I'm excited about this season. I'm finally healthy and ready to go.

RC: Have you made many appearances in spring training so far?

KH: I've had three or four, just in the intrasquad games facing Royals hitters, so I'm looking forward to getting to play against some other teams.

RC: How have those outings gone for you?

KH: I think that they've gotten progressively better. My fastball command has gotten better, and my secondary pitches I think are developing each time out.

RC: You were drafted in the 31st round (2007), and you had a scholarship commitment to Washington State. You had a lot of factors weighing in your decision to sign, especially with your injury, so was it a tough decision for you to make?

KH: I went through the whole summer not hearing anything about being able to sign, not being offered anything. So I think as the summer went on, more and more I was almost worrying and wondering if I'd even get the opportunity to play professional baseball. So when it came around, I think it was a pretty easy decision because I knew that this was what I really wanted to do.

RC: What was the recovery process (from the torn labrum) like?

KH: It's a long process. I think overall the total rehab and throwing program took about 18 months. More than anything, it's really a mental strain. Sitting out here and watching baseball most of the days and not being able to play and get out there to compete is tough. But if you can handle the mental part, the physical part kind of goes along with it.

RC: Now that you've recovered, do you notice any difference in the way your arm feels when you pitch, or anything like that?

KH: No, not really a difference, I think. I've made a few minor adjustments to my mechanics not really stemming from the injury, just kind of tweaking things to try to make everything smoother. When my arm gets sore after I pitch, I think that's normal. It doesn't hurt any more than it did before I had surgery. So I don't think that there are any big differences after surgery.

RC: Could you talk a little bit about your repertoire – what pitches you throw and what speeds you work at?

KH: I'd love to continue to increase my velocity on my fastball. I probably throw in the low-90s – 91 or 92 with my fastball. I'm working on my changeup and curveball. My changeup I think has developed more in the past year having actually worked on it through the rehab process. And my curveball is probably in the mid-70s, and I'm developing better command with it each outing.

RC: What are your plans and goals for this season?

KH: I'm just excited to play. I don't care where I go. As long as I can get on the mound and compete, I'll be happy.

RC: Are you looking forward to getting out of Arizona?

KH: Yeah, it's been a long time down here, so I'm excited.

RC: Well, thanks a lot, and good luck this year.

KH: I appreciate it.

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