GREENVILLE — Jeff Hoffman’s dazzling 16-strikeout masterpiece two weeks ago against Middle Tennessee was his last game of the baseball season and possibly the last in an East Carolina uniform.
Hoffman, a junior pitcher from Latham, N.Y., not only drew major league scouts to Clark-LeClair Stadium this season but also general managers and team presidents. He will have season-ending Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm next week, ECU coach Billy Godwin confirmed Wednesday.
“If this was my son, this is the direction he would go, and that’s the way I treat this in making these types of decisions,” Godwin said. “You’re trying to work through it with families and make decisions like this was my son, and I feel like he is, so I’m probably as disappointed as anyone.”
Godwin, right-hander, said Hoffman is handling the news well.
Hoffman, who ranks fifth in Conference USA in strikeouts with 72 despite missing his past two starts with arm soreness, will be under the care of renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.
It’s unclear how the injury and surgery will affect the draft status of Hoffman, who entered the season ranked second behind N.C. State’s Carlos Rodon among college pitchers. Godwin said there hasn’t been any discussion about whether Hoffman might return for his senior season.
“As we go through this next month leading up to the draft, it’ll all unfold, what’s best for him,” Godwin said. “We haven’t talked anything about his future. It’s more concern for Jeff and making sure he’s getting the best possible care he can get.”
Godwin shut down Hoffman following his career outing against the Blue Raiders on April 17. During that game, Hoffman had a brief meeting on the mound with Godwin, pitching coach Dan Roszel and a trainer, but Godwin said the soreness stemmed from a bullpen session the following week.
“We did everything possible during his 10-day shutdown,” Godwin said of Hoffman, who is 3-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 10 starts this season. “We had all the tests done that were necessary. The initial test back called for a second opinion, and it was Dr. Andrews, and he had some options off of that.”
Hoffman will join a growing list of Tommy John patients, a list that includes former North Carolina ace Matt Havey.
“The history says it all. Guys have it and come back ... and it’s not uncommon for professional pitchers or any guys that have it, my experience is that they come back bigger and better than they were,” Godwin said. “It’s a setback, but it’s a minor setback. I told him I look forward in about four or five years to sit in a park or an All-Star game and watch him pitch, and I really believe that.”