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Former Orioles first-rounder Matt Hobgood returns to the mound after rotator-cuff surgery

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles minor leaguer Matt Hobgood, the fifth-overall pick in the 2009 draft, threw his first bullpen session of the spring and just his second since season-ending rotator-cuff surgery 11 months ago on Sunday morning at the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex at Twins Lakes Park.

He threw a brief pen session in instructional league in October.

Hobgood, who has been limited to 42 games in his minor league career because of inconsistency and injury, said he’s pitching pain free for the first time in nearly four years.

“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. 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.”

Hobgood threw just two bullpen sessions last spring before being shut down. Early on in his pro career, he had been criticized for his conditioning.

This spring, the 6-foot-4 Hobgood – who threw 25 pitches, all fastballs, off the mound at about 80 to 85 perecent -- has cut his body fat down to 11 percent, a number that was in the teens in his early years and is now the lowest it’s been in years.

Now, Hobgood said he has no limitations physically.

“I’m just like any other guy. I’m trying to make a team and there’s no restrictions on me. I’m on the same program as everybody else. Apart from maybe my innings limit this year, I’m just like any other guy.”

 Hobgood owns a career 4-15 record and 5.48 ERA and hasn’t pitched higher than low Class-A Delmarva, which was back in 2010. His last game action was a 0-6, 10.46 record in short-season Class-A Aberdeen.

Despite his struggles on the mound, having an entire season of baseball taken away last year hurt more.

“It’s rough,” Hobgood said. “It’s definitely a humbling experience to say the least. … I can’t believe it’s 2013. I can’t believe I’m going into my fifth season technically, but I’m excited. All that’s behind me and I’ve learned a lot from it, the things I can’t to and the things I need to do, so I feel good.”

Hobgood said he hasn’t yet received word on an inning limit or where he’s 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 OK,” 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.”

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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