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Pat Hentgen Interview: Part Four

We are up to the penultimate part of our interview with Pat Hentgen. If you missed the first three parts they are here: part onepart two and part three

He makes an interesting point about coming back from ligament surgery (a question Hugo suggested). He makes the point that pitchers that are in really good shape can pitch with the injury longer, causing more damage in the long run. 

We talk about Halladay's playoff no-hitter because we talked just a day or two after it. Also his reaction to me saying he wouldn't want to be a full time pitching coach was very quick. He'd be really good in that role. 

How important is the relationship between the catcher and the pitcher? After Roy Halladay's no-hitter, the first thing he said in the post-game interview was to compliment Randy  Carlos Ruiz.

It is very important, my best year was with (Charlie) O'Brien who I felt was the best at knowing who to light a fire under and knowing who to pat on the back. I feel like that is a big part of it, there is no question, knowing a catcher and having the catcher know you and know what fingers to put down, is a great feeling for a pitcher. There is nothing worse than being out on the mound and the rhythm is off. He's not calling the pitch you are thinking of and he keeps going to your third pitch and you got to shake twice to get to it. That stuff becomes frustrating, when you are pitching. Especially if you are pitching 6, 7 innings every fifth day. If you are logging 200 innings it is a lot smoother if you have a catcher that is on the same page as you. I think that is why Doc is complimenting this guy because a) he has been in the AL all his career and doesn't the hitters that well and b) he apparently he likes to throw to this guy.  Remember he is the type of guy that's going to give the limelight to other people.  Doc's not a guy that likes to do press conferences, not a guy that likes all that attention. He likely to go under the radar as you well know.

But I'm not saying anything again Ruiz. Obviously Doc likes throwing to him, he has thrown 2 no-hitters and he'll win another Cy Young. But I think I could go catch Doc and he'd win a Cy Young (laughs).

I remember thinking, it doesn't surprise me that Doc gets a no-hitter, it surprises me that anyone hits him.

Well you know, they get seeing ground ball and he hangs a breaking ball, they get a double and that's how they score. They don't usually group a lot of hits together off him. If they do, it is just one of those days that every ground ball finds a hole. He is very tough to elevate.

You had ligament replacement surgery in 2001 and then came back and came back good. We've seen some pitchers have it and be successful and some not. How much can a player do to make sure it bounces back well and how much is luck of the draw?

I think there is some luck involved, but I think it all depends on your work habits prior to when you blow your elbow out.  If you already have strong muscles around that ligament area I think you end up coming back and you are ok. But, I think if you've had cruddy work habits, you've never done the elbow exercises, never done shoulder exercises religiously and now you blow your arm out. Now they put you on this intensive rehab program, before you get scoped or before you get the surgery. And then after you come out of the surgery you have 6 month of  more of this rehab. And remember you have never done this type of intense rehab, you are going to gain velocity because the ligament surgery is so successful that that's going to be fine. It's your muscles that are surrounding that area that are going to keep it stable and strong.  For a guy that doesn't work out that much, with his arm, keeping his arm in shape, he blows his elbow out, he comes back, now he has done a year of this rehab. A year of this intense elbow and shoulder stuff. So why do guys come back throwing harder? My theory is that they probably weren't in that great of shape before they were blown out. In that way a year of rehab has catapulted them to a higher level than they were prior to the surgery.

Where a guy that does the work all the time and continues to do this all the time he prolongs the injury, like myself for example, I was pretty religious about that stuff. I kept that stuff consistently, doing the shoulder and elbow stuff all year long, for every year I played. So I blew my elbow out, I went back doing this intense rehab, it was kind of the same as what I was doing for my whole career.

So I never actually came back and threw as hard as I did prior to it. I came back throwing a few clicks less. At that time I could afford to throw any slower. It was to the point that I was, I had to be pinpoint there at the end of my career.

What is your role on the team now?

My role now, it started out as a guest coach in spring training, and it kind of has evolved. I did that for a couple of years, I've made some appearances down in instructional ball for a week at a time, sometimes 10 days. This year I actually visited 3 of our affiliates, prior to my injury to my foot. I went to Vegas, Dunedin and Lansing, I filled in as interim pitching coach at Lansing for a five day period. I got to see all the pitchers start and all the relievers throw at all three levels. And I have taken on a little bit more of a role this year, I'm not so sure what it is going to be like in '11 because obviously the big manager change. So at this point I don't know, I know I'm prove to be affiliated with the club. I've done some PR stuff for them in the past. So I have a small role with the club. I'm in contact with them, but I also have the freedom to be at home right now so I'm trying to take advantage of that.

So you wouldn't want to have a full time role or be a pitching coach?

No! Oh no. No no, I didn't say that. I'd like to do pitching coach. The front office intrigues me as well because I feel like as a player, 18 year in the dugout you tend to have a good, I don't want to say eye for talent, but I'm saying I've seen a lot of major league players come and go. And trying to get them out on the mound hitters wise. I never was able to hit at that level but I think I'm pretty good at looking at a guy's swing and, you know, ‘wow this guy has got a quick bat, this guy barrows a lot of balls he's got a chance. But to answer your question, sure I think down the road I'd love to be involved more full time, sure.

Clearly you know a lot about the game. I thought you were great on the broadcast (on Cito's Day). Have you thought about being a color commentator?

You mean the other day with Buck?


I got a couple of txt messages from a couple of buddies of mine in Toronto saying the same thing. I'm flattered, that's a nice compliment. I appreciate it. I don't know how well it went. I remember doing the interview, obviously, but I can't recall some of the things I talked about.  I'd like to actually watch it sometime. (laughs). So I could see. I don't know if I could even, get that up on the archives on their web site. You know it is one of those things that again, you do the radio stuff and it is a big commitment. 162 games with Jerry and Alan Ashby. Buck on the other hand has two partners. I've never been contacted by the channel, what is it?

Rogers Sportsnet.

Rogers Sportsnet? Oh yeah the Sportsnet One (laughs). But the Sportnet thing, I've never been contacted by them, I have been contacted by the Blue Jays on the baseball operations side. And I've always had maintained the position with the club. To answer your question, I think I would be willing to try it. I have just never been contacted by anyone.

I thought you were just a natural at it. I think you were more informative. Sometimes the guys seem to say the same thing all the time. It seemed, listening to you, you had different things to say.

What did I say? Do you remember?

You talked about some of the pitchers you saw in the minors, you mentioned ones you liked.  You told us a lot about the pitchers that night. You talked about pitcher/catcher relationship. To me it was very interesting. With Buck it was like two players discussing the game.

Maybe it is because I don't get over exposed. (laughs). I don't have to do it for 9 innings I just to do it for two.

Maybe, but you were more informative for two innings, than a lot of are for 9.

They are sharing the whole season, I think. Those two (Pat and Rance), one guy is doing 100 games, one is doing 60. But I've never been contacted by them (Sportsnet), so I don't know that is something they would be interested in or what.