6/30 One on one with Hayden Simpson

Hayden Simpson, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2010, was at Miller Park Wednesday for Class A Peoria’s game against Wisconsin. The Timber Rattlers won, 5-1. Simpson is 1-5 with a 4.98 ERA in hs first pro season. He answered a few questions for MLB.com on Wednesday:

MLB.com:  How would you describe the way the first part of the season went for you?

SIMPSON: “It started off really slow. It’s coming off of being sick and not really being in the routine that I’ve always been in with the throwing and the working out and it was slow getting back into it. Spring Training was kind of a whirlwind because that was my first experience with pro ball and my first experience being around the guys and stuff like that. But you know, I adjusted to it and got used to it as well as I could and coming in to the year, I actually didn’t know what to expect. All I could do was go off of what I’ve done in the past and what I had been and that’s what we’re still working toward right now. We’re still working to get back to that point but [pitching coach] Jeff [Fassero] is doing a really good job with me and the whole organization is. I feel like we’re making a lot of good progress, we’re not regressing or anything like that. We’re going in the right direction and that’s really all you can ask for.”

MLB.com: When did you feel like you had completely recovered from your bout with mono?

SIMPSON: “It was tough. With the way it is being a virus and everything like that, I started feeling better about four months into it, probably around August or September. But then energy levels weren’t there. In Arkansas it was so hot that summer and so humid so I’m sure that kind of slowed it down a bit but the energy levels weren’t there. I lost a lot of strength, lost a lot of weight and it was tough. Coming back into it and getting into everything my arm feels good, it feels strong. We just keep working and things will work out the way they’re supposed to so we’ll see how it goes.”

MLB.com: What are you working on developing most right now?

SIMPSON: “We’re just kind of working on everything as a whole. Obviously having better fastball command, we’re working on that right now. We’re working on developing my curve ball as more of a 0-0 pitch and not so much as a strikeout pitch, the way it always was in college because I always used my slider as that pitch. You get up to better hitters at the higher levels and they’ll start realizing that and they won’t swing at it so we’re working on that, my two-seamer sinker, we’re working on that, staying on top of that a little more often, throwing it inside the righties on the back knee and stuff like that. It’s kind of everything. We’re going from start-to-start, what pitch was good, what pitch wasn’t good and we’re working on that during the week. That’s where we’re at.”

MLB.com: Fans didn’t have you on their radar for the draft, then you got sick, was there any part of you that was frustrated by it all?

SIMPSON: “That was the frustrating part about all of it. You’re waiting all your life and working so hard for that moment and to have something that you have no control over tell you that you can’t, that’s really tough. But people are always going to talk. I guess as long as they’re talking then you’re doing something right. It’s one of those things where you try to use that as motivation. You try and say, ‘I’m going to show you why’ and this and that. But the problem with me was that I couldn’t go out there and show them that at this point and time this is why you took me. That was extremely frustrating.”

MLB.com: Is that frustration still there and if so is it something you want to use to build off of?

SIMPSON: “Absolutely. It’s something that, I’ve always tried to find little things like that to motivate me and I don’t want to say it’s a chip on my shoulder, but I guess more or less it is. I think that all the athletes have something inside of them that say that they want to prove everybody wrong and they want to prove that they belong. We’re going to try and build on that in the second half of the season. Build off the positives and build off the negatives and try to improve and just try to turn everything around.”

Peoria catcher Micah Gibbs shared this on Simpson:

“Coming from college, and I had to deal with the same thing last year, I had to call a lot of offspeed pitches just because that’s kind of how the college game is,” Gibbs said.  “You can tell his offspeed stuff is well above average, he has some of the best offspeed pitches I’ve caught and he uses that a lot, especially in college. Now they’re trying to get him to use his fastball a little more. But we have to throw probably 75, 85 percent fastballs and it’s definitely a change and he’s definitely getting used to it.”

— Carrie Muskat

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