Like every other player who has toiled in the minor leagues, Donovan Hand just wants a shot.
That’s all — a call-up to the majors and a chance to show the Milwaukee Brewers or any other major league club just what he can do.
Hand, the former Hatton High School and Jacksonville State University standout, is at the Brewers spring training camp getting ready for what he admits is the most important season of his professional career.
“It’s a big year for me,” the 25-year-old right-hander said before leaving for Arizona last week. “I’ve had a solid year and a half in Triple A. I’m coming to the end of my contract with the Brewers. I’ve got an open mind. We’ll see what happens.”
Hand was a 14th-round selection in the 2007 draft, and the past two seasons has compiled a 4-6 record and 3.92 record with the Nashville Sounds. He began his minor league career as a starting pitcher but the Brewers have since converted him to a reliever.
Two years ago, Hand missed out on a September call-up even though the Brewers were struggling. In a National League Central Division championship season, the Brewers only made one pitching call-up last September.
“They weren’t looking to next year,” Hand said. “They had a chance to win and they didn’t want to mess up the chemistry.”
Hand is at the Brewers’ early camp for minor leaguers who are close to major-league ready. While it’s not the major league camp, Hand should get a chance to show what he can do.
“I progressed last year,” he said. “I thought I had a good enough year to get called up. I threw in a lot of close games. It wasn’t just mop-up work. I’m in better shape this year and I’ve gained a couple of miles per hour on my fastball.”
Hand said he’s had to adjust his style, going from a pitch-to-contact as a starter to looking for more strikeouts as a reliever.
“My whole life it’s been preached to me to throw strikes and pitch-to-contact,” he said. “Now, as a reliever you have to go after strikeouts in certain situations. They tell you that when a strikeout is available to go after it.”
As he’s progressed up the minor league ladder, Hand said he has learned how to pitch.
“I made a lot of strides from high school to college, but I’ve learned so much the past couple of years,” he said. “I’ve learned how to set hitters up and I realize when they are setting me up. I might get a guy to swing through a good slider and then he might hit the next one out of the park or into the gap because he adjusted his swing. I pay a lot of attention now to the scouting reports”
Hand’s plan going forward is to take advantage every time he takes the mound in spring training to hopefully get noticed by the major league coaches.
“I want to have an outstanding spring training and take that into the first month of the season,” he said. “Hopefully, an opportunity arises — the earlier the better. To be this close, I just want a shot to see what happens. That’s my dream.
“If I can’t do it, I’m man enough to walk away from it.”
Just a shot.
“Take the Jeremy Lin story,” he said. “Nobody gave him a shot and he’s a rising star in the NBA. It could happen to a 14th-round pick from Hatton. You never know.”
Contact Gregg Dewalt at 256-740-5748 or gregg.dewalt@TimesDaily.com.