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Updated: February 17th, 2011 1:37pm
Live from Florida, Day 1: RP Jim Hoey feels 'back to my original self'

Live from Florida, Day 1: RP Jim Hoey feels 'back to my original self'

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A rundown of the news, notes and quotes from Thursday at Minnesota Twins spring training:

Catching up with ... Jim Hoey

The hard-throwing right-hander hasn't pitched in the big leagues since arthroscopic shoulder surgery wiped out his 2008 season. But Hoey says he finally feels he's rounding into form and, at age 28, is hopeful a fresh start is what he needs to jump start his career.

"Getting back from the shoulder surgery has been tough, a tough road," said Hoey, acquired in the December trade that sent shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Baltimore Orioles.

"What I've found the hardest -- just getting your flexibility back. Last year was more trying to get my arm strength back and this year is more location. But I feel like I'm back to my original self."

There's no question Hoey looks the part of a power reliever at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds. He expects to hit 95 or 96 mph consistently with his fastball -- he once was clocked at 100 mph while pitching for the Class-AA Bowie Baysox -- and last summer developed a splitter that's become his No. 2 pitch.

But it's been more than three years since Hoey threw a big-league pitch, and even then, he says he wasn't 100% healthy. After coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery in 2004, Hoey missed most of the '05 season and began having shoulder trouble early in 2006, when he pitched the first of 35 games for the Orioles -- going 3-5 with an 8.13 earned-run average, 24 strikeouts and 23 walks in 34 1/3 innings.

"I felt something at the beginning of '06 and I just kept throwing with it," Hoey said. "You do have to compensate just to try to throw a strike, and that has hindered my mechanics to where the last two offseasons I really had to focus on getting back to the basics and learning how to pitch again."

Hoey spent 2010 at Bowie and Class-AAA Norfolk in the Orioles' organization, finishing 6-0 with a 3.25 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 34 walks in 52 2/3 innings over 42 appearances. He took some time off after the season, then resumed throwing around the same time the Twins acquired him in December and reported early to Fort Myers on Jan. 2.

Significant turnover in the Twins' bullpen has Hoey optimistic about carving out a relief role.

"I'm real excited just to earn a spot," Hoey said. "I don't feel like anything should be given to anybody until they go out there and perform."

Numbers game

1: Players known to have missed Thursday's deadline for pitchers and catchers to report to Fort Myers. RHP Yorman Bazardo had a travel issue.

15: Japanese reporters on hand to watch IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka take infield practice.

Health watch

• RHP Scott Baker (elbow surgery) said he feels "pretty good" and isn't concerned about a minor setback with his recovery from minor surgery. Earlier this month, trainers told Baker to back off on throwing temporarily, raising a red flag or two for a pitcher who needed two cortisone shots in that elbow last season. "I prepared for (spring training) like I didn't have surgery," Baker said, noting that in retrospect he might have tweaked his offseason workouts. Prior to the operation in October, Baker had never undergone arm surgery. He's scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday.

• C Joe Mauer (knee surgery) said he's still working on strengthening his surgically repaired left knee but expects to participate in Friday's workout.

• RHP Joe Nathan (elbow surgery) said he felt "the best I've felt the day after throwing a bullpen" since undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring. He expects to throw again on Friday.

Overheard

"Am I the only one who's not going to do anything today?"
-- Veteran RHP Carl Pavano, after entering the clubhouse in shorts and sandles

On deck

The first formal workout for pitchers and catchers is on Friday. The first full-squad workout is next Wednesday.

Phil Mackey contributed to this report

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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