SARASOTA, Fla. — As pitchers conducted their first workout of the spring at Baltimore Orioles minor league camp on Monday, the beginning of two comebacks took place in the bullpen area.
It’s been nearly four years since the Orioles made highly touted high schoolers Matt Hobgood and Mychal Givens their top two picks in the MLB draft. Both have struggled to live up to expectations, but both arrived in camp this spring with renewed hope for their careers.
Hobgood, the No. 5 overall pick in 2009 who has been limited to 42 games in his minor league career because of inconsistency and injury, threw his first bullpen session of the spring and just his second since season-ending rotator-cuff surgery 11 months ago.
“I’ve been looking forward to [this] since I had surgery in April and rehabbed the entire year and really threw a few innings in 2011,” Hobgood said. “So basically it’s been a few years since I’ve pitched and almost four years since I’ve pitched pain-free. I’ve worked really hard this offseason both in my arm and on my body, so I was ready to report to camp.”
Givens — the winner of the Jackie Robinson Award as the nation’s top high school player going into his senior season — was touted as an athletic prospect who could throw a mid-90s fastball and play shortstop. After struggling through his first three seasons as a position player, Givens — the Orioles’ second-round pick in 2009 — is converting back to pitching.
The last time Givens threw from the mound before Monday was in his final high school game, when he hit 96 mph in the sixth inning of a Florida state championship game at the New York Mets’ spring training park in Port St. Lucie.
“It wasn’t like it was a surprise thing,” Givens said of going back to pitching. “They’ve been talking to me about it every year, but right now they think I can be a pitcher in their organization so it’s all good.”
Of the Orioles’ top 11 picks in 2009, just two of them have remained in the system and advanced past Class A Frederick.
Hobgood owns a career 4-15 record and 5.48 ERA and hasn’t pitched higher than low Class A Delmarva in 2010. His last game action was a 0-6, 10.46 record in short-season Class A Aberdeen.
Hobgood said he hasn’t yet received word on an innings limit or where he will start the season, but he’s confident that he’s finally healthy for the first time in years.
“In my mind, I know I’m okay,” Hobgood said. “I’ve put in the work with my body and my arm and mentally. I know that there was some time when I was down about that, but that’s behind me and I’ve worked really hard to get where I’m at now. My No. 1 goal to start off is to stay healthy and continue moving up and continue getting the arm strong.”
The Orioles haven’t told Givens whether he will be used as a starter or reliever, but he is optimistic about the change.
“Right now I’m going to focus on pitching and getting better and hopefully I can make it to the big leagues as soon as possible.”