Monday, September 5, 2011

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer

If the 66ers are going to go deep into this year’s playoffs, they will need strong starting pitching. With Tillman and others manning the pen, the performance of the starters will be more pivotal.

One player who understands the importance of both starting and relieving is John Hellweg. Drafted as a reliever in the 16th round (499th overall) of the June, 2008 Draft, Hellweg was the second tallest player in the organization at 6'9" (Loek Van Mil in Double-A Arkansas was the tallest at 7’1”).

Coming into 2011, Hellweg’s story had been typical of a tall reliever: high heat, little control. In his first 3 years in the organization, Hellweg struck out 123 batters in 96.1 IP, but he also walked 98. In 2011, his relieving efforts took a turn for the worse, resulting in a 2-3 record, a 7.71 ERA, and a 2.18 WHIP in 25.2 IP.

Hellweg’s heat has always been legitimate. He could dial it up to 99+, but, as the numbers showed, couldn’t control it. In order to help Hellweg reach his full potential, the Angels tried an unorthodox experiment with him—they moved him into the rotation!

For many fans, the move into the rotation didn’t make sense—but it worked. As a starter this year, Hellweg has posted a 4-1 record with a 2.12 ERA and 80 Ks in 63.2 IP! More importantly, he’s dropped the number of walks he’s issued by nearly 2/3rds. His BAA as a starter is .218 and he’s generating 5 times as many ground ball outs over air outs. He’s done all this in the high octane Cal League. recently caught up with John Hellweg to find out more about his transition from a reliever into a starter and whether or not Tina Turner is in the top-3 songs in his I-Pod. Click below to listen to our interview. Interviews 66ers Pitcher John Hellweg from on Vimeo.

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