Wrote about Danny Hultzen for today's paper. He admitted to being wiped out physically by the end of last season, so he took a break to start the winter then hit the weights.
Hultzen was pretty hard on himself during our conversation. He found himself in this cycle where his legs wore down, his arm followed and was fighting himself in his head as a result.
Hultzen's command was poor in Tacoma. He averaged eight walks per nine innings. He joked he couldn't hit teammates in the chest from 15 feet away when they were just throwing.
"It was a grind," Hultzen said. "Having a lack of confidence was an issue. Just go out there and realize it’s baseball, it’s a game, you’re having fun. But I would talk to my dad, I would talk to the coaches, I would talk to my old coaches from college, my old coaches from high school, talk to my high school buddies, talk to anybody and just see if something would click. But, obviously, nothing clicked really.
"I couldn’t throw a fastball for a strike to save my life. I was walking guys on four or five pitches routinely. It’s not the pitcher I am and I know that."
Which makes it easy to forget how dominant Hultzen was at Double-A Jackson. His WHIP was 0.929. He had more than twice as many strikeouts (79) as hits allowed (38). That's part of the reason his trouble in Tacoma was so surprising.
Hultzen said he's not concerned with where he starts the season.
"That’s out of my control," Hultzen said. "I don’t know where we’ll all start off. I’m not worried about that. I’m just trying to get back to throwing strikes and that’s my main issue. If you throw strikes, then you have a shot. If you keep walking people and just try to throw it down the middle, obviously, that’s what I did in Tacoma, that didn’t work out very well. My main issue is just throwing strikes. Not trying to be too perfect with it on the corners."
General manager Jack Zduriencik and Tacoma manager Daren Brown said they would rather see struggles at Triple-A then in the big leagues and that they fully expect Hultzen to be able to fix things.
"Players are going to face lumps and bumps," Zduriencik said. "The fact that there was a learning experience for him in Triple A is not a bad thing. I think he’s dedicated himself this winter. I think he had a chance to go home and clear his mind, and I think what you have to realize, too, is it’s this guy’s first full season of pro ball. You expect the ups and downs during the course of that and he’ll be a better man coming through it like he has."
Hultzen is trying to find value in the battles he had on the mound in Tacoma.
"Going through that … obviously the numbers and stuff were really bad, that’s why I take it as a really, really good experience," Hultzen said. "It’s something you’ve got to deal with. You're going to fail, and I’ve never failed like that in my life. It’s a good experience to go through that, and I learned a whole lot from it."