CEDAR RAPIDS – You can tell B.J. Hermsen is getting closer and closer to the big leagues.
Not only has this been a breakout season for the former West Delaware prep, but Hermsen knows who to thank for the way he is throwing the baseball. Public kudos go to his pitching coaches and catchers.
He threw seven shutout innings Monday night for Double-A New Britain to improve already gaudy pitching numbers.
“I base a lot of it off the fact that I’ve been able to throw to veteran guys,” the Minnesota Twins minor leaguer said in a recent telephone interview. “Danny Lehmann has been up here and knows a lot of the hitters. Chris Hermann is exactly the same way. That has allowed me just to go out and throw. They call the pitches, and I throw them.”
Obviously it’s not as simple as all that, though Hermsen is making it look that way. The 22-year-old right-hander had four great starts at high-Class A Fort Myers (two runs in 23 innings) to begin this season and was promoted to New Britain.
He’s been rock solid for the Rock Cats, with a 4-2 record and 2.59 earned run average in eight starts. Hermsen has pitched at least seven innings in six of those starts and seven of the eight have been quality starts (at least six innings, with three or fewer earned runs allowed).
They say once you reach Double-A, you can allow yourself to think about making it to the major leagues. You can taste it.
The 2008 sixth-round draft pick was asked if that’s true.
“You can feel it, but you still are a long ways off, yet,” he said. “You’ve got to keep working hard.”
One thing that continues to be perplexing is Hermsen’s velocity, which he said remains in the middle to upper-80s. He was regularly 90 to low-90s as a prep, but, for whatever reason, that has never surfaced professionally.
Theories range from changed mechanics to heavier workload. The Twins even sent video to Mike Morrison, Hermsen’s head coach at West Delaware, to see if he could detect anything about Hermsen’s delivery that was dramatically different from high school.
He found little.
“Every pitcher in baseball, the harder you throw, the more chances you have,” Beloit Manager Nelson Prada said last season. “If B.J. pitched the way he pitched with a couple more miles per hour, I think he’d have a lot more success. He’s smart, he throws strikes, he knows how to pitch, he goes about his business, he’s a very good pro. He just needs a couple more miles (per hour) to have more success.”
There is no question, Hermsen has “pitchability.” He knows how to pitch, is able to throw all of his pitches for strikes and generally where he wants in the strike zone.
He said he has added a cutter this season to his arsenal of two and four-seam fastball, changeup and curve.
“That has been very effective for me,” Hermsen said. “(Increasing velocity) is obviously easier said than done. But especially in my particular situation, I think it has helped me learn how to pitch instead of just throw. Hopefully my velocity increases then as I go along.”
He is going along quite nicely. He’s 10 games over .500 in his career with a nice 3.11 earned run average.
Next season will be his fifth in professional baseball, and he’ll have to be added to the Twins 40-man major league roster or be declared a free agent. He’s in an organization that treasures pitchers with control and command.
Not that he’s looking that far ahead.
“I’m just one step closer,” Hermsen said.