By JASON STELLA
Since coming to the Reds organization via trade just before the 2012 campaign, pitcher J.J. Hoover has shown nothing but promise as a member of both the Louisville Bats and the Cincinnati Reds. We checked in with Hoover to learn more about his memorable season, and what lies ahead.
Jason Stella: You have been with Louisville for two stints this season, and you lead the team with a 1.36 ERA and 12 saves. Statistically, this has been the best season of your professional career. What do you think has been the key to your success?
J.J. Hoover: Throwing strikes and getting ahead with my fastball. Just being able to put hitters away once I am ahead in the count and not toying around with them.
J.S.: You earned your first spot in the Major Leagues earlier this season, spending two months with the Reds and allowing just six earned runs in 18 innings. How did it feel to help the team stay near the top of the NL Central standings?
J.J.H.: It was awesome. Getting to the big leagues has been a dream since I was a little kid, so being able to go up there and help that bullpen was great. I felt like I was an actual part of the pen and not just a fill-in. It was a lot of fun up there.
J.S.: Early in your professional career you were a starter for the Braves organization, but over the past few years, you have transitioned over to a relief role. How has your physical and mental approach changed?
J.J.H.: There is not really much of a difference in approach for me. They transferred me over to the relief role halfway through last year. I have done relief work before in college and it’s not too much different. I’m an attacking pitcher, I like to put the hitter on his heels, and I think that is one of my strengths.
J.S.: In Louisville, you have primarily been a closer. What is your mindset as you enter late in tight games from the bullpen, and how do you get yourself ready to go?
J.J.H.: It doesn’t matter if we are up 10 or down 10, whenever the manager calls for me to pitch; it’s like turning on a light switch. It’s time to go. It’s time to get the hitters out. When I enter the game for a save opportunity, it’s important for me to get the first out.
J.S.: Has your pitch selection changed since starting to come out of the bullpen?
J.J.H.: No, because when I started coming out of the bullpen last year, I went to just fastball/slider. Now I am back to fastball/curveball/slider/change-up, which is what I used when I was a starter.
J.S.: As you continue to hone your skills here in Louisville, what aspects of your game are you working on the most?
J.J.H.: Mainly consistency. I feel like I have a good, rough piece of work so far, and now it’s just time to hone every aspect of my pitching so I can hopefully be a more consistent big leaguer down the road.