Hahn creates buzz on, off mound with Padres
Pitching prospect shines at big league camp, unveils stylish skill in clubhouse
PEORIA, Ariz. -- For as much as right-hander Jesse Hahn has found himself gravitating toward his teammates in camp, asking questions and seeking advice of veteran pitchers, his clubhouse locker stall has become a surprisingly popular stop this spring.
It's not pitching his teammates want to talk about, either.
To be sure, Hahn has impressed in his first big league camp, as he's pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings after two solid innings Thursday night against the Giants. If he doesn't make the staff as a long reliever, Hahn might not be in the Minor Leagues long.
"We've been very pleased with how talented he is," said Padres general manager Josh Byrnes.
And while he's impressed the front office and coaching staff, his teammates have essentially been a buzz about, well, his buzz cuts.
Jesse Hahn, future barber?
"Hey, you can't play this game forever," Hahn said, smiling. "Who knows? … This could be something to fall back on one day."
Not that Hahn, considered a very important piece in the team's January trade with the Rays, figures to be doing anything other than pitching for a long time.
Hahn, ranked as the 17th-best Padres' prospect, hasn't resembled someone at his first big league camp or someone who hasn't pitched above the Class A level.
"He's got a good arm. The scouting reports proved that out," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He had a big arm in college and was on everyone's radar in college. He looks the part. He can really spin the ball. He has a moving fastball in the low 90s with an old-school slurve."
Hahn was selected by the Rays in the sixth-round of the 2010 Draft out of Virginia Tech but needed to have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He didn't pitch in 2011 but threw 52 innings in 2012 and then 69 last season as the Rays brought him along slowly.
"We think the talent was worth the risk," Byrnes said.
Hahn, who if he doesn't make the big league team will begin the season with Double-A San Antonio, is set to throw 100-plus innings. That's a number he's had his eye on since having surgery.
"It's been four years since I've been in triple digits in innings," he said. "I'm glad to be able to cut that leash now."
For now, he's working on a different cut -- trimming the hair of his teammates. This isn't just a passing fancy, either. Hahn is very serious about his work and takes ownership of his patrons, just like he does with his pitches. He even has his own clippers.
"I've been cutting hair for a couple of years now. I did it in college. I did it with the Rays. I've worked on Andrew Cashner, Jedd Gyorko, Tim Stauffer, and I just did Donn Roach now. A few guys are beginning to come to me," Hahn said. "It's been a fun hobby."
When he's not cutting hair, Hahn has acted like a sponge, soaking in all things pitching with Black, pitching coach Darren Balsley and even future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, who is the team's upper level pitching coordinator.
"There is so much to learn from them. Everyone has been so open and welcoming to me, I feel I could go up to any one of these guys and ask them anything I want and they can help give me some very helpful information. I'm glad they've taken the time to do so," Hahn said.
Hahn said he recently picked up a piece of valuable information from reliever Joaquin Benoit.
"He was telling me to establish the inside of the plate and if I can do that, then you can really pitch well at this level," Hahn said. "And I have talked with pitchers about the routine they go through between starts during the week."
It's safe to say that routine probably doesn't involve giving haircuts, though Hahn doesn't foresee giving this hobby up anytime soon -- no matter how difficult the cut might be, like Cashner's combination perm and mullet.
"That's a tough one," Hahn said, smiling. "I don't want to mess that up. He takes pride in his hair. But as much as he can go to an actual professional barber, I'd rather him do so."