Hammer time doesn’t last long in Valley
One thing after another has come up for J.D. Hammer in his baseball career and he’s conquered them all.
First, he envisioned himself being a major league shortstop, but the coaches at Navarro Community College in Texas didn’t see enough offensive skills to keep him on the team. His choices were to pitch or redshirt; he learned to pitch.
After junior college, Hammer transferred to Marshall University and wound up showing enough pitching skill that the Rockies took a chance on him in the 24th round of the 2016 Draft. Playing pro ball that summer, Hammer ran into another hurdle. He noticed that he was having trouble seeing the catcher’s signs. An eye exam revealed that he needed corrective lenses and he opted for contacts. That didn’t work either. The contacts bothered his eyes, so he attempted to pitch without them, but now could barely make out any signs the catcher was giving him. The only option were glasses and Hammer decided to go with the Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn look from the movie Major League.
In July of 2017, Hammer was dealt to the Phillies in the trade that sent Pat Neshek to the Rockies. The following season, Hammer dealt with injuries that limited him to just 12 minor league appearances. Hammer, who was excited at being dealt to the Phillies because he viewed it as a sign of being valued by the organization, learned a big lesson through the injuries.
“Last year was not an ideal year, but it taught me a lot,” said the 23-year old recently. “I went into the offseason taking better care of my body, understanding what I needed to do to be healthy. I have to prepare my body the right way.”
Hammer also realized that he couldn’t just depend on throwing a mid-to-upper 90s fastball once he hit Double-A ball where he opened the 2019 season. He already threw a change-up, but added a slider to his arsenal and worked hard on developing the pitch this spring.
“I worked real hard on that, so I could throw offspeed when I’m behind in counts,” said Hammer of developing the slider. “I feel like it was a big jump for me. I’ve always been able to throw the fastball, but I’m becoming more of a pitcher.”
His development not only paid off with an assignment to Reading, but after just 13 appearances with the Fightins this season, he was bumped up to Lehigh Valley. Unfortunately for IronPigs fans, he wasn’t in town long, pitching just one time and throwing two perfect innings. Ironically, Hammer would get the call to the majors to replace Neshek, the guy he was initially dealt to the Phillies for in the trade with Colorado. Neshek had resigned with the Phillies after the 2017 season and Hammer was now replacing him in the Phillies bullpen.
In his MLB debut, Hammer faced a good selection of major leaguers in Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas and put them all down in order, striking out Moustakas to end the inning. With Neshek out indefinitely and the Phillies bullpen needing some help, Hammer could wind up sticking around for a while in Philadelphia. After all, he’s already spent as much time in the majors as he did at Triple-A.
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