|Will Hibbs, image- Jay Floyd
In 21 games with the BlueClaws, the 23-year-old right-hander posted a 5-1 record with seven saves, a 0.98 ERA with a .092 batting average against and a 9.3 K/9 mark.
Through his first 17 outings for Lakewood this year, Hibbs put together 31 straight scoreless innings to open the season and he was honored by the South Atlantic League as its relief pitcher of the month for May.
Selected in the 19th round of the 2016 draft out of Lamar University, the six-foot-seven 245-pounder debuted as a pro with the short-season A level Williamsport Crosscutters last summer. In 19 relief outings with the Crosscutters, Hibbs posted a 3-4 record with four saves and a 1.44 ERA.
Recently I spoke to Will about his All-Star nod, his pitch repertoire, adapting to the minors and more. Read ahead for that interview.
-You were named late, not among the initial roster, to the Sally League All-Star team. Very deserving. I know some fans and media types saw it as a snub at first. Did you feel that same way?
Not really. That's not anything in my control, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. I was joking with one of the other guys that asked me, like, me going to the All-Star Game isn't going to magically help us win (the division). So, all in all, it's an honor to go, but it's nothing that was life and death, but that being said, I'm very grateful to be going.
-When you got the news that you were going, how was the news given to you?
It was funny. We were having a team meeting about a series against Hagerstown, going over the pros and cons of that whole series and just in passing (our manager) Marty (Malloy) just threw me the packet and said, "By the way, you're going." It was cool because no one made a big deal about it, which is how I prefer it. Just a quick little note about it and then we went out for BP and had our usual day. I was able to stay in the same routine as normal and have a good little start to the day.
-Have you ever had a streak similar to how you started the season here, with all the consecutive scoreless innings?
Not really. I think I had a decent little streak in high school, but it's kind of hard to credit that. You know, honestly, you didn't really think about it too much as it was going on. (If I was) a starter someone could look at it a little heavier that way, being that they can throw seven innings at a time sometimes. Whenever I'm going out for anywhere from one to four or five outs at a time, all you're trying to do is accomplish the task before you each time. You don't have time to reflect on it, because you could be called the next night. So, I didn't really think much about it. I was just going out each time my name was called
-What is the full menu of pitch offerings for you right now and what is the biggest weapon at this stage?
I throw fastball, slider, curve ball, change up. Curve ball's always a go-to for me, but obviously you want to pitch off your fastball. But, a lot of it's dependent on the batter that you're facing, the situation of the game, the strengths of my pitches that day in accordance with the batters I am facing at the time. So, it depends. But I'm really starting to feel more comfortable with my slider, so it's something to build off of.
-Was that something that you added as a pro or have you always thrown that?
Yeah, I messed with it in college, but I couldn't get very consistent with it. We worked on it a little bit last year in Williamsport and felt pretty good with it. Then coming into spring training and getting comfortable with throwing it more and more, now I feel like I can throw it on any count and feel comfortable with how it's going to react to the pitch selection.
-What is the feedback you've been getting from the coaching staff as you've progressed this year?
Oh, it's a lot of the same every day, just a pat on the butt, saying keep it going, good job. The bullpen as a whole, our bullpen has been outstanding and we feel comfortable giving the ball to anybody in our staff. We go out and do our job, then we have our little 30 minutes after the game- good job, you did the job set before you and then as soon as you wake up the next day, it's a new day and you've got to get ready for the next situation.
-What are the biggest differences in levels of the pros? You talked about being with the 'Cutters last year, or even from the jump to the minors from collegiate ball?
Are you talking about the biggest differences in the pros?
-Yeah. What do you notice as the things that present the most challenges or things you have to adapt to the most?
I think getting sleep is a huge thing, where you have these crazy sleep schedules. But, it does-- as much fun as it is, and this is the most fun I've ever had in my life playing baseball. I've been playing a long time-- this is the time, not to be cliche', that it's the most business like.
You're getting to field at a certain time because have exercises with the athletic trainer and then tissue prep with the strength and conditioning coach and then BP and then the game and that happens every day. And in college, you might have your cake senior schedule where you sleep in till 11, have your one class and then go to the field for three hours. Here, we've already been at the field for five hours, getting everything going, and that's before anyone every sees us out on the field. And it's stuff like that that makes you appreciate the term "the grind" or it's the "long season" and stuff. We've figured out how to get into a good routine and take care of our bodies and really attack the season as opposed to surviving the season.