Albuquerque, N.M.—The Colorado Rockies’ decision to send top pitching prospect Jeff Hoffman back to Triple-A to start this season caught many by surprise.
Hoffman, though, did not show any residual anger or disappointment at the organization’s decision during the Albuquerque Isotopes’ media day on Monday afternoon.
“Obviously they feel like they have the best five guys up there (and) that can be really good for me, I think,” Hoffman said. “That’s kind of a little chip on my shoulder. I can say OK, I really haven’t had many people to prove wrong here lately. I kind of scooted through the system really fast. Last year was my first full season and it ended in the big leagues. It feels good to have someone doubting me again and I’m really looking forward to having the chance to prove them wrong again.”
The 24-year-old right-hander, after all, was coming off just his first full pro season, as he said. Hoffman made his Triple-A and Major League debut last year, a rapid rise for any pitcher, even one labeled as a top prospect.
“As an organization we want to bring reality to the situation,” Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill said. “The reality (is) that he’s got some things to work on to be consistent. If he doesn’t lose sight of that, his time here is going to be relatively short. But there’s no timetable on that process because at the end of it, we want consistency.”
Hoffman said the issues he faced this spring and last season have nothing to do with the physical act of pitching.
“I feel like my delivery and all the physical things are in a good spot right now,” Hoffman said. “But the one thing that I’m going to try to do better with is being a better self evaluator of my outings and really try to be harder on myself. I got away from that last year and that kind of hurt me towards the end of the year. I think me holding myself to a higher standard and holding myself to the standard of what you’re held to in the big leagues, that’s what’s going to help me.”
A goal then, Hoffman said, is to go back and look over his starts more closely.
“It’s not (just) film study, it’s just after outings, going back and looking at your film, seeing that no, that pitch wasn’t as good as I thought it was,” Hoffman said. “Your eyes kind of deceive you in game situations. Everything is moving so fast and maybe you thought you threw a fastball in but maybe it didn’t get in, maybe it was middle and a guy was able to get a barrel on it. Just knowing that the eyes can trick you during games, that will also help me to be harder on myself, not to be satisfied, basically.”
Hoffman did admit to the fact he expected to be pitching for the Rockies to start 2017, rather than suiting up for Albuquerque in the season opener Thursday night against Salt Lake.
“In a non-cocky kind of way, yeah, I expected it, but that’s just because I was confident in who I became last year and how I ended the year,” Hoffman said. “I ended with a really good start against Milwaukee. Then coming into this spring, I was kind of on the same level as some guys but I didn’t perform as well as I hoped. So I get to work here and get back to where I was.”
One of the first things Hoffman plans to work on is command, particularly with a certain pitch. “My curveball and my changeup I feel really comfortable with right now which is pretty normal for me at this point,” he said. “But like I said, coming with holding myself to a higher standard I want my fastball to be better than it has location wise. Velocity is going to be there for me, I understand that. That’s how my arm works. I’m not going to worry about the velocity and focus on locating.”
Hoffman’s overall mentality approaching the season fits in with Hill’s, and the organization’s, philosophy when it comes to being sent down to the minors.
“He’s accepted it already (because) that’s kind of one of those things that I talk about — we’re not in position to waste time worrying about things that we can’t control,” Hill said. “The thing we can control right now is making sure he’s ready to go out there and pitch. We’re sure that he has a plan that is geared toward doing what he needs to do. Now he has to implement that plan. I think he’s good. He wants to get back to the big leagues and help our big-league club win games. It’s our job to help him do the things he needs to do.”
Hoffman said fans should not expect to see a different pitcher on the mound this season. Well, maybe a little.
“My game won’t change, but I’ll just have a bit more of a fire inside,” he said. “You probably won’t see it. If I get a big punch-out here and there, you might see me a little bit more emotional, but for the most part you won’t see anything different about my game.”