Sean Hjelle Has A Plan Of Attack
Righthander Sean Hjelle’s love for baseball took root a long time ago.
"Ever since I could pick up a ball, it was always baseball,” Hjelle said. "It was innate. That’s just what it was. It was always baseball for me.”
It didn't matter that Hjelle (pronounced "Jelly”) would grow to 6-foot-11, because baseball—not basketball—is his passion. If the Giants’ 2018 second-round pick out of Kentucky reaches the big leagues, he would tie righthander Jon Rauch as the tallest man in major league history.
That doesn’t necessarily motivate the 21-year-old Hjelle.
"Obviously, I know my height and I know the advantages and disadvantages that come from it,” said Hjelle, 21. "But every pitcher still has to accomplish the exact same task.”
The main task is to throw strikes, and that’s not a problem for Hjelle. In three seasons and 229.2 innings at Kentucky, he averaged 2.6 walks per nine innings. In 21.1 innings spread over 12 starts at short-season Salem-Keizer, Hjelle walked just four batters.
"I’m a groundball, pitch-to-contact guy,” Hjelle said. "I like to get quick, easy outs.”
Hjelle throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a knuckle-curveball, a slider and a changeup that both Hjelle and Salem-Keizer pitching coach Dwight Bernard say needs to be improved.
Hjelle impressed Bernard with his "pitching knowledge. He’s got a good idea of what he’s trying to do with each hitter . . . He’s got a feel.”
That pitching knowledge occasionally can hamper Hjelle. Bernard said Hjelle "overthinks a little bit. (He) doesn’t trust his stuff as much as he should.”
For that reason and a few others, Hjelle appreciated having Joey Bart, the Giants’ first-round pick from Georgia Tech, as his catcher with Salem-Keizer.
"I love pitching to Joey. He’s so calm and collected with everything he does,” Hjelle said. ". . . He can tell already if I’m starting to overthink things. He just kind of looks at me and goes, ‘Hey, dude, just throw a fastball.’
"It’s a good relationship we’ve got going so far, so I’m looking forward to hopefully continuing to throw to him.”
As Hjelle tries to progress through the Giants’ system, his passion for the game—whether he’s pitching that day or not—should serve him well.
"He’s a team guy,” Bernard said. "To see him into the game, that was good.”
Said Hjelle: "If you see me in the dugout, I’ll be yelling, screaming and probably dancing most of the game.”
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• The Giants hired Farhan Zaidi to serve as their president of baseball operations. Zaidi, who turns 42 on Nov. 11, had spent the previous four seasons as the Dodgers’ general manager. An MIT grad with a PhD in economics from California, Zaidi worked 10 years in the Athletics organization before going to Los Angeles. Zaidi plans to hire a general manager to work alongside him as he worked alongside Andrew Friedman in Los Angeles.