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Wednesday, 01 June 2011 15:06

Indians' Hoover looking to clean up injury issues

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Shaun Hoover will be fighting fear when he first faces a left-handed pitcher this season for the Swift Current Indians.

The Tribe’s new first baseman came across a lot of bad luck this past college season, which included getting injured by a southpaw.

Hoover joined the Northwestern State University Demons after spending two seasons at junior colleges.

During last off-season, the six-foot-two, 210-pound Omaha, Neb., native had labrum surgery. After an enduring fall and winter of rehabilitation where he was rebuilding strength in his shoulder, the 21-year-old was excited to return to the diamond in the spring.

Hoover’s season, however, was cut drastically short when he check-swung at a pitch during a team scrimmage and was hit by a 93 mile-per-hour pitch on his left wrist, breaking a bone in it. That at-bat, which was against a left-handed pitcher was his first and only one of the season.

Once again, the left-handed hitter was forced to the sidelines. It wasn’t until one month ago he started hitting, running and throwing again.

Since he hasn’t taken any real at-bats since he broke the wrist in his throwing arm, Hoover isn’t too sure whether he will be affected in the batter’s box early on in the 2011 Western Major Baseball League season.

“Seeing another lefty pitcher, I’m sure my knees will buckle here and there, but I’ll be fine,” said Hoover. “It has been a while. I’ll just give it time and hope things work out.

“I know I won’t be that smooth in the beginning, but hopefully through this summer things will go my way.”

Expectations are high for the psychology major. Hoover had a .450 batting average in the Division I Junior College World Series in 2010, where he led Hutchinson Community College to a third-place finish. During the course of his entire sophomore season, Hoover had a .323 batting average with 12 home runs.

Those hitting credentials, especially the power Hoover is known to bring at the left side of the plate, is what Indians’ manager Joe Carnahan is hoping he continues with this season.

“He has left-handed power and in our park that’s a very good asset to have,” said Carnahan. “We expect him to play the best that he can and what he brings to the table is going to be positive. He’ll hit for power and have good defence.

“Early in the season, it may take him a little while to find his timing (at the plate), but it’s going to be that way with a couple guys. He’s a very talented kid.”

Although it may take some time for Hoover to get adjusted to being in the batter’s box again, he believes he will be able to live up to his billing in the Indians’ infield.

The first baseman said throwing beyond 90 feet used to bother him when he first returned to the training, but that it is fine now. He doesn’t believe his wrist will bother him at all, which he hopes will translate into limited errors.

Right now, Hoover is just focused on becoming more comfortable at the plate, especially against left-handed pitching, so he can start launching bombs over the Mitchell Field fence.

He’s also looking forward to a cooler summer than he would have experienced in Louisiana.

“I’m looking forward to it as far as the weather,” he said. “I do think I have enough power to hit it out of the field every once in a while, especially with this weather and with the elevation being higher than Louisiana.”

Hoover and the Indians begin their 2011 season with a pair of home games against the Okotoks Dawgs June 1-2.

They visit Moose Jaw June 5 before returning to Mitchell Field June 6 and 7 when they host the Edmonton Prospects.

Swift Current will also host Medicine Hat June 4.

All home games are scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m.

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