by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor
Like every single one of his teammates in Nashville, Jesse Hahn‘s main goal is to get to the big leagues. But unlike many of them, he’s already seen the promised land and has actually spent plenty of time residing there, having started 50 major league games between the A’s and the Padres. He’s experienced some ups and downs during that time though.
This season, the A’s optioned Hahn to Nashville towards the end of spring training but, thanks to injuries, he was quickly recalled. After looking impressive in April, he tailed off a bit in May, and then did a stint on the disabled list. He struggled at times after returning to action in June, and the A’s optioned him to Nashville at the start of July, where he’s been doing his best to master Triple-A hitters as well as his own arsenal.
His Pacific Coast League performances have been improving of late, and we spoke with Hahn just a day before his best outing for Nashville this season, when he allowed 1 run on 4 hits over 6 innings of work for the Sounds. And after spending some time talking with him, it’s clear that he has one simple goal in mind…
AF: I wanted to get your perspective on your experience down here. Of course, Nashville’s a nice place, but we all know you’d obviously rather be up in Oakland than here in Triple-A. And I know you’ve got some stuff to work on here. So, what’s your focus while you’re here in Nashville?
JH: To get back to the big leagues – I mean, you have to. You’ve got to keep your head up and you’ve got to keep working hard. I have this thing where when something doesn’t go my way, I just work harder. If I get sent down or if I end up here…I mean, Nashville’s a great city, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it when I’m here. I enjoy the clubhouse, the coaching staff, all the guys in here, but at the end of the day, the main goal is to be in the big leagues and stay there. So, it gives you that motivation to work harder and get there.
AF: I’m sure the coaching staff has particular things they want you to focus on here. So, what specific things are you really trying to work on here?
JH: Yeah, I’m always trying to improve my changeup. I have a good one, but I need to use it more. So, this is a time and place to use it more and work on that. So, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing lately. And you can always touch up on your fastball command, especially myself. So, those are two things for me – fastball command and working on the changeup and just throwing it more.
AF: What do you find the differences are between the times when you’re going really well and everything’s working for you and then the times when things just aren’t going so well for you?
JH: You know, sometimes when you do struggle, you start thinking about things. You think about, “Wow, something might be wrong. I might have to fix something.” When it might not be – it might be that I just had a bad outing, I made the wrong pitches, I threw the right pitch but I didn’t execute it, instead of getting all caught up in, “Oh, it could be my mechanics – I need to work on this and work on that.” So, I’ve found that sometimes less is more – simplify things as much as you can, because it’s a complicated game. So, that’s kind of what I do – I try to take something really small and hopefully that’s the quick fix that I need.
AF: Rather than thinking about everything too much and letting it all spiral out of control…
JH: Yeah, exactly!
AF: Is there much difference for you facing hitters at this level as opposed to hitters at the major league level?
JH: I think guys here are a little more aggressive. At the big league level, they’re patient and they have a good approach. Up there, if you’re not locating your fastball, you’ll get behind in counts easily, whereas here, you might get a couple favors with guys swinging at some stuff. I mean, it’s a tough league to pitch in, but obviously the big leagues is a tougher league to pitch in. You can’t make as many mistakes in the big leagues. They’ll make you pay a little bit more, whereas here, you might be able to get by with a couple. But there’s not a huge difference – it’s a really good league.
AF: Well, a good percentage of the guys down here have spent time up there before too. So, how do you feel your overall command is at this point?
JH: I think it could use a little bit of a tune-up, but I feel good. I’m still working on things. I think every day you can work on your fastball command. There’s no such thing as perfecting it. You can always get better at it, so that’s kind of where I’m at.
AF: Now what about the personal side of things? You had been living in the Bay Area, and then suddenly you had to up and move to Nashville. So, where are you staying out here?
JH: I just stay in a hotel when I’m down here. I still have my place in Oakland in case I get called back up. Like I said before, keep it simple! My wife’s out here now. She goes back and forth. She’s still staying in Oakland, but whenever we get a long home stand, she flies out here with the dog just to make it seem the same, like things haven’t changed too much.
AF: So, have you been able to spend much time getting to explore Nashville while you’ve been here?
JH: Yeah, I’m out and about every morning. I’m a big food guy. I love to explore different restaurants and find what’s out there. So, every morning I wake up early and find a new breakfast spot and eat there and find a new lunch spot. And if we have time to get dinner, I go out and do that. But other than that, I’m not a big partier. I don’t really go out much, so that’s kind of it for me.
AF: You’re going out in the day, not the night! So, now that we’re headed into the last part of the season, what are you thinking about trying to get done here in the remainder of the season?
JH: Just trying to finish up strong, finish healthy and end up in the big leagues again. That’s where I want to be – that’s my main goal.
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