Hovis ran his scoreless appearances to ten games
When college baseball seniors don’t here their name called in the 50 rounds of the annual baseball draft, they’re usually disappointed. But when you lead the nation in ERA for one of the best programs in the country, you really don’t have to worry all that much.
“I was the closer for the second half of my junior year,” Jonathan Hovis, a UNC graduate, said. “And then senior year we had a guy, Andrew Carignan, that was better suited for the closer role, so I switched over and basically came in anytime we needed some innings to get to him.”
Hovis didn’t let it get to him, all he did was go out and posted a 1.17 ERA in 69 1/3 innings over 38 games, with 59 strikeouts and a 1.01 WHIP ratio.
He knew he wasn’t going to get drafted in the first day, but also wasn’t totally shocked when he didn’t hear his name on the second.
“All four years in college I didn’t talk to one pro scout,” Hovis told PinstripesPlus.com. This was unusually odd considering he was on the same pitching staff as first-rounders Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard.
“Those guys are great,” the right-hander said, who was Bard’s roommate and lived in the same apartment complex as Miller. “Hanging around them, you wouldn’t ever know they were two first round draft picks. Having them on the team was great, two top ten picks in the rotation. I think word got out that Daniel wanted a lot of money, which wasn’t true, and so he dropped in the first round.”
Still, having not been drafted after such a great college career must have been tough to take.
“I think it helped that we were still playing after the draft, just to help me focus on baseball,” the 23-year old said. “I understood why though, I’m a small guy who doesn’t throw all that hard. But once I got off the plane in Omaha [the home of the College World Series] I had several messages from teams trying to sign me.”
So instead of being a second day draft pick and having no leverage against the team that held his rights, Hovis had several options to choose from and some leverage to add. Luckily he chose the Yankees and pitched lights out at Staten Island last seasno with a 1.73 ERA over 36 1/3 innings and 30 strikeouts with a 1.05 WHIP ratio.
This offseason, Hovis spent his time in his hometown of Gastonia, NC and had a few odd jobs - substitute teacher, pitching instructor, and serving drinks in the men’s clubhouse of a local country club.
He also spent some time working out with the Tar Heel’s baseball team at UNC where his girlfriend is still in school. To prepare for the season, he changed his diet to include leaner meals, while building up more strength in his legs for the longer pro season.
“One of the keys to progress in the minors is to stay healthy,” Hovis explained. “If you’re injured all the time, you can’t prove yourself to the organization.”
In Spring Training, Charleston Pitching Coach Carlos Reyes noticed some problems in Hovis’ delivery.
“He was crunched over too much,” Reyes said. “It caused him to drift a little too much and he couldn’t control the zone as much. But he straightened up to start the season and regained his balance through his delivery, improving his control. He’s a closer you can count on and I have confidence when we call on him to start the ninth inning.”
Hovis isn’t big at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but it isn't an issue as long as he keeps pitching well. He throws a two-seam sinking fastball that sits between 86-89 MPH, accompanied with a slider and a changeup. He attributes his success to the mentality he brings to the mound.
“Ever since I played AAU, I’ve had the same mentality which is to attack the hitters,” Hovis explained. “Hitters are going to get themselves out, it’s my job to throw strikes and let the fielders make the plays."
"If I get ahead in the count, I can throw a low sinker, which is a tough pitch to hit, and I’ve had some good infields behind me.”
This year, as Charleston’s closer, Hovis has been nearly unhittable. He has not given up a run in 9 2/3 innings with 13 strikeouts, with just one walk while racking up five saves, and batters are hitting just .200 against him.
With ten scoreless appearances to begin his first full season in professional baseball, it would seem the pressure will be mounting to keep his scoreless streak alive.
“Nah it’s nothing like that,” Hovis said. “It’s just me going out there and doing my job. As a closer I go out there and I’m confident in myself because of the work and preparation I’ve done to be ready for this. If they get to me, I just tip my hat and try to focus on the next game.”
So far in his professional career, Jonathan Hovis has had to tip his hat to only a select few.
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