Henn Looking to Regain That Old Form

Sean Henn is a 6-5 200 pound lefthander with a purpose. Henn turned 23 on April 23 and looked to build on last year's success in Tampa, pitching 72 1/3 innings after missing the entire 2002 season due to elbow surgery. Henn's goal in 2004 was to regain his old form that made him one of the better Yankees' pitching prospects, and more importantly, to turn in a healthy 2004 campaign.

Henn started the 2004 season with the Thunder, his first professional season above A ball. He has managed to go at least six innings in seven of his eleven starts this year, allowing three runs or less four of those times. Thunder manager Stump Merrill said the most important thing for his young starter is to simply "visit the mound." Henn has done just that making all his scheduled starts this year, including one in which he threw a staff high 115 pitches.

Throughout the year, Henn has reported no pain in his surgically repaired elbow or any other part of his body for that matter. That is a plus for a pitcher who is on the Yankees 40 man roster and from whom so much is expected. Despite his healthy shoulder and poise on the mound, he is expected to spend the entire year with the Thunder gaining valuable experience at the Double A level.

According to Henn, a pitcher's role is to "help us and keep the game close." Henn went on to add that it is the pitcher's responsibility to keep the opposition to 2 or 3 runs a game and that it shouldn't be tough to do and should be expected every time out. This shows Henn's determination and will to succeed at this level. He has high expectations for himself in every start. Those high expectations have only translated to a 3-2 record but it could be much better. Henn pitched to a 2.78 ERA in the month of April but failed to get a decision in any of his four starts.

Thunder pitching coach Gary LaVelle has been a great asset to his development. Henn credits the coach with breaking down the game, "giving good examples in very simple terms." This teaching aspect and its complement, a willingness to learn on the part of a young pitcher, is what puts players back on the track to success.

In Henn's last start against Portland, he went seven and a third innings giving up four runs and seven hits over that span. Henn said after that start that he didn't show the hitters his changeup enough the second time around the order. Henn also said that since he has always been told that he had "a plus fastball" that he would just continue to throw it, since high school. He said he learned this year that that wasn't going to cut it. That really bore itself out when you consider that all seven of the hits Henn allowed against the Sea Dogs occurred after he had gone through the order at least one time. Further proof that Henn needs to use his changeup earlier in the game is the opponents batting average. Opponents hit a combined .213 off Henn in the first three innings of a game. After that, however, it explodes to .318 in the fourth and a whopping .478 in the fifth. Despite the high opponents batting average in the middle innings.

Merrill indicated that it was an encouraging sign that Henn was able to find his changeup later in the game and regain the success he had earlier in the game by utilizing it. He went on to say that, "That's what this level is about, development." Most encouraging, though, had to be the fact that Henn himself mentioned the use of his changeup. This showcases that Henn is aware of what he needs to improve upon and is making strides in that direction. That means that as impressive as Henn has been in his first eleven starts, including giving up only one run in his first double A start, the best is yet to come for this young pitcher.

With his poise and his bulldog tenacity, it should not surprise that he is impressing those around the game. Furthermore, if he continues to learn from his prior starts and continue to progress, he could assume "ace" status in this pitching staff very soon. All this, and he is still the #10 prospect in the Yankees organization, according to Baseball America. Henn will get his next chance to move further up the Yankees prospect list on Sunday when he takes on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the finale of a five game series at Waterfront Park. Henn will need to step up in that start because the Thunder have doubleheaders on both Saturday and Tuesday so Henn will need to keep the pressure off an overworked bullpen if the Thunder are to be successful in the week to come.

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