Phillies prospect Connor Hinchliffe returns to La Salle
By Matt Rappa
Phillies pitching prospect Connor Hinchliffe is returning to his alma mater amid the canceled MiLB season, but not for academics
Amid uncertainty surrounding the return of minor-league baseball, and given he is not among those in the Philadelphia Phillies player pool, right-handed pitching prospect Connor Hinchliffe has decided to return to his La Salle University alma mater.
The 24-year-old Pottsville, Pennsylvania, native will not be taking classes as the new semester begins, but rather re-joining the university’s baseball team — “until duty calls” with the Phillies — as Director of Player Development for the 2020-21 season.
“I will be primarily helping the pitching staff with programming, tech integration and pitch design,” Hinchliffe tweeted on Tuesday.
Travis Hergert, Phillies MiLB Assistant Pitching Coordinator, says that it has been a “difficult time” to watch players have a season taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic. “But on the flip side,” he continues, “it makes us proud to see our guys [like Connor] use this time to utilize every resource [to] continue to develop.”
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, pitchers have had to make the most of what they have to stay prepared, in case they are called upon to report.
Hinchliffe took the extra step to creatively turn his driveway into what WBRE in Wilkes-Barre reported as a “high-tech bullpen.” He threw to a fake batter, as well as trained and played catch with his brother daily; he even uses equipment to track his spin rate and velocity. For him, whatever it takes to get reps in.
Given the shortened 2020 season is less than three weeks from competition, it appears Hinchliffe will not get a late call as LHP Jeff Singer recently did.
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“This isn’t obviously the spring that I had in mind,” Hinchliffe, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, said in recent months. “I set goals for myself going into the season, and [am] trying to keep that same mindset of just waking up every day. If I’m going toward those and attaining them, then I’m in the right direction.”
The La Salle University alumnus signed a deal with his hometown team in June 2019. At the time, he said he was “incredibly grateful to play professional baseball,” and that one year prior, he never thought it would be possible. He added: “To be given the opportunity to play for the hometown Phillies is amazing. I can’t wait to wear the Philadelphia ‘P’ on my chest.”
Hinchliffe grew up as a catcher and began his collegiate playing career in 2017 in the outfield. The following year he split time between the mound and the outfield grass, but it wasn’t until 2019 when the La Salle Explorer was a full-time thrower.
And, he still found a way to tie the school record for saves in a season, 13, led the Atlantic 10 with 28 relief appearances, and was among the national leaders in saves throughout the season. His 2.27 ERA and 1.31 WHIP led the Explorers, as he held opposing hitters to just a .181 batting average.
Hinchliffe credits his mom for helping him to where he is today: “At the advice of my mom, and I’ll give her credit, she said, ‘Why don’t you start pitching, now that you’re not catching anymore?'” Hinchliffe told WBRE. “So, I was like, ‘You know what? Ok, I’ll give it a try. I can either go with this and run with it, or kind of fold it in and pack it up.’ Luckily, I made the decision to work hard at it and hit the ground running my senior year, and luckily got an opportunity to play professionally.”
Last year with the GCL Phillies West, Hinchliffe appeared in 16 games and allowed no home runs and just five earned runs spanning 24 2/3 innings en route to a 1.82 ERA. However, he walked as many batters as he struck out (17). Looking to improve his game, the right-hander told WBRE that he hopes minor leaguers can have some sort of organized camp soon, even if they don’t get to play games.
“I’m trying to come back next season, or whenever we play, and make an impression on the Phillies, and hopefully, climb through the system and be successful one way or another.”
Hinchliffe making strides in professional baseball will have to wait due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, it is nice to see Hinchliffe return to La Salle and try to help other pitchers also work their way to the professional level.