Decision Time For Hacker And The Yankees

Eric Hacker picked a great time to have a career year. The minor league free agent this offseason went a combined 9-6 with a 2.43 ERA between stops at high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton and finally showed the complete game the Yankees had been waiting on since they drafted him back in 2002, and now both sides need to figure out if their working relationship will continue next season and beyond.

"It was a great year for me and a big year at that, obviously it being a free agent year for me," Eric Hacker said of his 2008 season. "I needed to have, not just a good year, but my best year going into [2009]. I was very happy with things."

It's not like he entered the season without good career numbers either. He was 21-9 with a 2.86 ERA over his career, but he missed the better part of two years with both Tommy John surgery [in 2004] and shoulder surgery [in 2006].

He rebounded from his latest surgery last season by posting solid numbers with the Charleston Riverdogs, and while the numbers weren't great with the Tampa Yankees a year ago, he says that's when his game started to change for the better.

"Obviously coming off of an injury you're always going to have it in the back of your brain that you are coming off of an injury, so there is a little holding back," he said of his first-half of 2007. "Early on my arm still wasn't at 100 percent, it still took me longer to get loose."

"When I got to Tampa I felt a little bit better but I didn't really hit a turning point mentally until I went back to Charleston. I kind of convinced myself that I was halfway through a season and that I was fine, I felt good, and let's just go from here with no looking back. That's what I did and my velocity jumped up."

A pitcher who would routinely sit in the 87-89 MPH range with his fastball and complement it with a slower-looking slider and a developing changeup, his stuff began to take off when he allowed himself to let go a bit more and it carried over into the 2008 season.

Seeing his velocity bump up to the 90-92 MPH range consistently and even topping off at 95 MPH at times, he also began throwing a harder slider and both his changeup and curveball made huge strides.

"I was throwing a different slider and I started throwing that which made a big difference for me, more of a harder slider instead of a loopier slider," he said of his stuff this year. "My changeup started to get a little bit better too.

"Just my confidence mentally and physically was night and day, and that made a huge difference. I knew at the end of the season last year, looking back at how I felt and the results I had, I knew that if I had just picked up where I left off and just improved from that I could have a good year, and I did.

"I added a pitch this year, a curveball, which made a huge difference in my strikeouts, especially once I got a really good feel for it. My curveball didn't really get good for me until I got to Trenton and it made a night and day difference with my strikeouts."

Finally seeing his stuff blossom to the point where he and the Yankees had hoped for the last few years, and finally putting two healthy seasons together essentially for the first time in his career, Hacker's breakout performance puts him at the doorstep of the big leagues and he believes he's ready.

"Yes, I feel like I am," he said emphatically. "I had many games this year where I felt I could have done anything I wanted. It's amazing what that mindset and that confidence that you know your stuff is there and you're able to put it wherever you want it can do. I feel ready for that."

The potential problem, however, is Hacker is now a minor league free agent this offseason and the Yankees are already faced with a plethora of prospects that need to be placed on the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

Hacker's game has peaked at the right time and he certainly has made the Yankees' impending decision on him a tough one, and right now whether or not they choose to continue their working relationship is too close to call.

"It's kind of a holding time right now to see what happens," Hacker admitted. "I don't know when they come out with the 40-man rosters but I know the Yankees have a lot of decisions to make.

"They've got a bunch of guys that are eligible this year to be protected. We'll kind of wait and see what happens with that. I'd love to be put on the roster and I feel like I can be a part of this team now.

"I feel like I can compete in the big leagues. If they don't that's just something I'll have to wait and see what happens at that time."

Obviously being offered a 40-man roster spot this offseason could cinch the decision for Hacker as that's where his loyalties lie.

"Are the Yankees my first priority? The way I can answer that is the Yankees know me and I know them," he continued. "I've been here for six and half or seven years now, they've been patient enough with me with my injuries to give me the time and the opportunities to be successful to stick with it, and I can't thank them enough for everything they've done for me.

"I hope they'll give me that opportunity going into next year and if they don't it's just something I'll have to consider at the time. I'll take all things into consideration and I'll think of all of those things, the things they've done for me.

"But in the long-run I've got to do what's best for me and my career, and my family. Whether that's staying with the Yankees, that'd be great, but if I go elsewhere that's kind of a business decision that I have to make."

Hacker has played himself into the discussions of potentially helping the big league club in some capacity in the very near future and he hopes the Yankees don't overlook the whole body of work.

"I would hope that if the Yankees look back at what I've done, I would hope they would look at my numbers and say 'wow, look at what this kid's done when he's been healthy', that I've been good and I would hope they would see that and see what I bring to the game, not only on the field but off of the field.

"I'm not only a pitcher but I field my position well and I do pretty much every aspect of the game. I feel my abilities, my leadership roles, can make a big benefit to the team. I hope they can see those things."

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\r\n \r\n\r\n\"It was a great year for me and a big year at that, obviously it being a free agent year for me,\" Eric Hacker said of his 2008 season. \"I needed to have, not just a good year, but my best year going into [2009]. I was very happy with things.\"
\r\n
\r\nIt's not like he entered the season without good career numbers either. He was 21-9 with a 2.86 ERA over his career, but he missed the better part of two years with both Tommy John surgery [in 2004] and shoulder surgery [in 2006].
\r\n
\r\nHe rebounded from his latest surgery last season by posting solid numbers with the Charleston Riverdogs, and while the numbers weren't great with the Tampa Yankees a year ago, he says that's when his game started to change for the better.
\r\n
\r\n\"Obviously coming off of an injury you're always going to have it in the back of your brain that you are coming off of an injury, so there is a little holding back,\" he said of his first-half of 2007. \"Early on my arm still wasn't at 100 percent, it still took me longer to get loose.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"When I got to Tampa I felt a little bit better but I didn't really hit a turning point mentally until I went back to Charleston. I kind of convinced myself that I was halfway through a season and that I was fine, I felt good, and let's just go from here with no looking back. That's what I did and my velocity jumped up.\"
\r\n
\r\nA pitcher who would routinely sit in the 87-89 MPH range with his fastball and complement it with a slower-looking slider and a developing changeup, his stuff began to take off when he allowed himself to let go a bit more and it carried over into the 2008 season.
\r\n
\r\nSeeing his velocity bump up to the 90-92 MPH range consistently and even topping off at 95 MPH at times, he also began throwing a harder slider and both his changeup and curveball made huge strides.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was throwing a different slider and I started throwing that which made a big difference for me, more of a harder slider instead of a loopier slider,\" he said of his stuff this year. \"My changeup started to get a little bit better too.
\r\n
\r\n\"Just my confidence mentally and physically was night and day, and that made a huge difference. I knew at the end of the season last year, looking back at how I felt and the results I had, I knew that if I had just picked up where I left off and just improved from that I could have a good year, and I did.
\r\n
\r\n\"I added a pitch this year, a curveball, which made a huge difference in my strikeouts, especially once I got a really good feel for it. My curveball didn't really get good for me until I got to Trenton and it made a night and day difference with my strikeouts.\"
\r\n
\r\nFinally seeing his stuff blossom to the point where he and the Yankees had hoped for the last few years, and finally putting two healthy seasons together essentially for the first time in his career, Hacker's breakout performance puts him at the doorstep of the big leagues and he believes he's ready.
\r\n
\r\n\"Yes, I feel like I am,\" he said emphatically. \"I had many games this year where I felt I could have done anything I wanted. It's amazing what that mindset and that confidence that you know your stuff is there and you're able to put it wherever you want it can do. I feel ready for that.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe potential problem, however, is Hacker is now a minor league free agent this offseason and the Yankees are already faced with a plethora of prospects that need to be placed on the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.
\r\n
\r\nHacker's game has peaked at the right time and he certainly has made the Yankees' impending decision on him a tough one, and right now whether or not they choose to continue their working relationship is too close to call.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's kind of a holding time right now to see what happens,\" Hacker admitted. \"I don't know when they come out with the 40-man rosters but I know the Yankees have a lot of decisions to make.
\r\n
\r\n\"They've got a bunch of guys that are eligible this year to be protected. We'll kind of wait and see what happens with that. I'd love to be put on the roster and I feel like I can be a part of this team now.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel like I can compete in the big leagues. If they don't that's just something I'll have to wait and see what happens at that time.\"
\r\n
\r\nObviously being offered a 40-man roster spot this offseason could cinch the decision for Hacker as that's where his loyalties lie.
\r\n
\r\n\"Are the Yankees my first priority? The way I can answer that is the Yankees know me and I know them,\" he continued. \"I've been here for six and half or seven years now, they've been patient enough with me with my injuries to give me the time and the opportunities to be successful to stick with it, and I can't thank them enough for everything they've done for me.
\r\n
\r\n\"I hope they'll give me that opportunity going into next year and if they don't it's just something I'll have to consider at the time. I'll take all things into consideration and I'll think of all of those things, the things they've done for me.
\r\n
\r\n\"But in the long-run I've got to do what's best for me and my career, and my family. Whether that's staying with the Yankees, that'd be great, but if I go elsewhere that's kind of a business decision that I have to make.\"
\r\n
\r\nHacker has played himself into the discussions of potentially helping the big league club in some capacity in the very near future and he hopes the Yankees don't overlook the whole body of work.
\r\n
\r\n\"I would hope that if the Yankees look back at what I've done, I would hope they would look at my numbers and say 'wow, look at what this kid's done when he's been healthy', that I've been good and I would hope they would see that and see what I bring to the game, not only on the field but off of the field.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm not only a pitcher but I field my position well and I do pretty much every aspect of the game. I feel my abilities, my leadership roles, can make a big benefit to the team. I hope they can see those things.\"
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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