Coming out of his first full professional season in 2011 since being drafted, Ryan Hafner was one of the State College Spikes best starters. The right-hander, who was a overslot 17th round pick out of Lee’s Summit West High School in 2010, posted a 3.10 ERA over 14 starts (65.2) innings.
Hafner was expected to start the season out of spring training at Low-A West Virginia, but a hamstring injury set him back to where he didn’t make his season debut until late April. From the get go, Hafner struggled at the new level. In his debut, the right-hander allowed seven runs (six earned) on five hits with two walks and two hit batters. He went on to post five-plus ERA’s in both May and June.
The command issues continued for Hafner, and after making 14 starts, he was moved into the bullpen to get back on track.
“I was struggling as a starter,” Hafner said. “I think it’s better for me being in the bullpen right now, it gives me more opportunities to throw in a game and just more time off the mound in game situations. I think it’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s for the better.”
“Trying to get him back to where he was a little bit last year,” the Power’s pitching coach Willie Glen said. “From what I understand, he threw the ball pretty well. We’re just trying to get that feeling back with him an inning at a time. Hopefully as he gets going, the confidence creeps up a little bit back to where it was.”
The biggest reason for the struggles this season, Hafner said, was due to not being consistent delivery-wise. The results have been a huge walk rate, averaging at least a walk per inning. Last season, Hafner walked just 20 batters over 65.2 innings, and so far in 2012, the right-hander has walked 65 over 59.1 innings.
“There’s some stuff we’re trying to iron out in his delivery a little bit,” Glen said. “Obviously if you can’t repeat it there, you’re going to have a hard time commanding the ball at the plate.”
The move to the bullpen is aimed to get Hafner back on track. He’s made some recent adjustments to try to get back to the same delivery that he had last season where he found success.
Although it’s a small sample size, since moving to the ‘pen, Hafner has seen an improvement in ERA. Hafner has allowed two earned runs on two hits over nine innings (2.00 ERA). However, his command is still a work in progress as he’s walked 12 compared to 3 strikeouts.
“Just consistency,” Hafner said. “I came off an injury during spring training and came back kind of rough and it just continued into the season here. I’m just working to get back to that old form that I was last year.”