General : : Professional
Friday, February 26, 2010

Hermsen Succeeds Despite Broken Collarbone

Jim Ecker        
B.J. Hermsen made a big splash in Rookie Ball with the Minnesota Twins last year. He threw six innings of no-hit ball in his first outing for Fort Myers in the Gulf Coast League and finished the season with a 6-2 record and 1.35 ERA, but here’s the amazing part.

He did all that with a broken collarbone.

Hermsen, 20, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander, broke his left collarbone while playing quarterback as a senior at West Delaware (Iowa) High School in the fall of 2007. It’s been nearly 2 ½ years since the injury, but it still hasn’t completely healed.

“It’s actually still broken today,” he told Perfect Game USA last Sunday. “I have full range of motion and everything, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Will it ever heal? “I couldn’t tell you,” he said.

They tried a bone stimulator for a month or two, but there was little bone growth. Nothing seemed to help. “They made a decision to let it go,” he said.

Hermsen said the broken collarbone is not a hindrance to his career. And based on the results from last season, he could be right. He began making headlines with his performance on Day 1.

“I threw six no-hit innings, and then we had four guys come in and throw the last three innings of no-hit ball. We ended up throwing a combined no-hitter,” he said. “It was pretty crazy, in my eyes. You couldn’t ask for a better start.”

And it was definitely not a case of beginner’s luck. Hermsen started 10 games for the GCL Twins in 2009 and threw 53.1 innings, but here’s the impressive part: He allowed only 32 hits in those 53.1 innings, struck out 42 batters, walked only four, allowed only eight earned runs and did now allow any homers. Broken down, he allowed just 5.4 hits per nine innings.

“I thought it went really well,” said Hermsen, who was a sixth-round pick in 2008. “Individually I had a pretty good season and my team made the playoffs, so it was nice. We lost in the first round, but overall I thought it was a good season.”

Hermsen, blessed with a 93 mph fastball and a big, athletic body, was projected to be a high pick in the 2008 draft, but the broken collarbone held him back a little. In addition, he’d signed a letter-of-intent with Oregon State and was excited about joining a team that had won the College World Series in 2006 and 2007.

Minnesota took a shot and has been rewarded. The Twins got Hermsen to sign at the deadline on Aug. 15, 2008 and gave him a $650,000 bonus, well above the “slot” for sixth-round picks. It was too late for him to make his pro debut in a regular-season league that year, but he showed what he could last year in the Gulf Coast League.

Hermsen pitched in the Instructional League this past fall in Fort Myers and spent the winter at his home in Masonville, Iowa, with his family. He visited Perfect Game headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last Sunday to attend the annual Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase, strictly as a spectator.
“Just watching some baseball,” he said. “It feels good to finally watch some.”

Hermsen will report to spring training at Fort Myers in about two weeks, but doesn’t know where he’ll start the season.

“Basically you wait until after spring training is done to know where you’re going,” he said. “It will either be Elizabethton in Tennessee or Beloit in Wisconsin.”

The Elizabethton Twins are a Rookie team in the Appalachian League, whereas the Beloit Snappers are a Low Class A team in the Midwest League. The Midwest League would be convenient for his family and friends, because he’d be fairly close to home. “Playing around the area would be nice,” he said.

Of course, playing in the midwest for the Minnesota Twins would be the best location of all, but the big leagues are still a distant dream. He’s played only one season of Rookie Ball so far, but he’s learned what being a pro is all about.

“There’s a lot of different things that you don’t even think about in high school that you find out about in pro ball,” he said. “Just learning to adjust to everything, both on and off the field. It was definitely eye-opening.  It’s definitely fun, that’s for sure.”

Hermsen has talked to a Twins official about his future, and here’s the bottom line: Hermsen is a top prospect, but there’s no rush.

“He said, ‘We have a plan for you. We’re going to take it slow and it will work out,’” Hermsen reported.

 So far, so good.
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