TAMPA, Fla. – Spring training at the Toronto Blue Jays minor league camp is another step forward for Jeff Hoffman.
The 22-year-old had Tommy John surgery last May to repair his UCL, after he tore it playing for East Carolina University.
Projected to be one of the top three picks in the 2014 MLB Rule Four Draft, the six-foot-four righty fell to the Blue Jays at ninth overall after his injury.
“I didn’t know how serious it was at the time, but I mean it was just one of those things where I threw a pitch and it didn’t feel normal,” said Hoffman. “I finished that inning and went back to the trainer and told him what was going on and we worked on it, and ended up seeing (Tommy John specialist) Dr. Andrews.”
Hoffman knows his recovery doesn’t end with surgery, he needs physical rehabilitation as well. That can be as much mental as it is physical, with doubt a struggle.
“You wanna keep that out of your mind when you’re young,” said Hoffman. “But (…) it’s probably gonna happen at some point in your career, that’s why it’s so important to listen to the trainers, listen to the guys that have come out with things like that weighted-ball program, and the band work that you can do, that stuff’s all really important.”
Although a top prospect now, there was a time in high school when the Latham, N.Y., native struggled to get noticed. A sudden six-inch growth spurt in a year gave Hoffman the surge in velocity required to get the attention of Division I recruits.
But first he needed to learn how to use it.
“I think getting comfortable in my body, and really understanding where my body was at different points in my delivery, that definitely helped me out,” said Hoffman. “And then on top of that I got a lot stronger in college.”
That strength convinced the Blue Jays to sign him for $3.08 million. Hoffman hopes to progress into a top-of-the-rotation piece for years to come. For now though, he knows he needs to continue to move forward with his recovery, one step at a time.
“I’m just gonna go out and do what I can do. Help the team win you know, and if guys up top decide to bring me up, that’s great,” said Hoffman. “That’s my dream.”