TAMPA — Daytona closer Jimmy Herget sat in the visitor's locker room Sunday, fielding a question from a reporter. He was asked what time today's game against Jupiter started. There was a pause.
"I don't know," Herget said. "I'm not really sure."
That's not because Herget is flighty or preoccupied. He is honest. The life of a minor league baseball player can at times have an exhausting staccato rhythm.
Play. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
"It's everything you've ever heard about minor league ball," Herget said. "It's a grind. Sometimes the days kind of blend together."
But if Herget's days seem repetitive, it's perhaps because they share a similar quality: success. The former Jefferson High and University of South Florida star is plowing through the Florida State League (Class A) and was recently named to the league's all star game on Saturday in Fort Myers.
"It's something I wanted to do and thought if I pitched okay I'd have a shot at," Herget said. "But I think my parents were a little more excited than I was. They were calling me freaking out."
Herget (as of press time) currently paces the FSL in saves, 10, and owns a sparkling 1.95 ERA. He has fanned 39 batters in 28 1/3 innings and converted all of his save opportunities.
"We think he's going to be a fast riser in the bullpen," Daytona pitching coach Tom Brown said. "He's got a really good professional attitude about going out and doing his job."
Herget was drafted in the 40th round out of Jefferson but chose the Bulls.
"I thought a little bit about (turning pro)," Herget said. "But I looked myself in the mirror and realized I needed to go and mature a little more in college. Face some better hitters before I get thrown to the wolves."
Herget, a Friday night starter from his freshman year, finished his Bull career 24-11. He went 10-3 with a 2.92 ERA as a junior, becoming one of only 13 players in school history to notch a 10-win season.
"I think I made the right decision," he said.
Cincinnati chose Herget in the sixth round last summer but projected the lanky 6-foot-3, 175-pound righty as a reliever. He reported to the Reds rookie ball team in Billings, Mont., and proceeded to convert 15-of-17 save chances.
"They just told me right off the bat I was the closer," Herget said. "I'd never relieved at all up until that point."
Herget had to get used to being ready to throw each day in short spurts, rather than taking the ball every fifth day. He learned to max out his effort on each pitch, rather than conserve it for the later innings. And he figured out he took quickly to the adrenaline rush of nailing down games.
"It's a totally different animal, for sure," Herget said.
Brown said Herget's unorthodox delivery and arm slot make him perfectly suited for the bullpen.
"He's a herky-jerky, short-arm, sidearmer," he said. "There's nobody like that. Nobody throws like that. And he changes tempo in his delivery, which makes it hard for the hitters to pick up."
Almost a year after beginning his pro career, Herget is adjusting to the lifestyle just fine. Sure, he may not always know exactly when the game begins, but he has proved plenty effective at making it end.
"When I was asked what time the game started I had no idea," he said. "I just know when I need to be on the bus and then I go to the field and whatever is on the schedule, that's what I do."
Play. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Contact Brandon Wright at [email protected]