Wichita Wingnuts

Wingnuts' Hinson willing to take his chances

Explaining his request on Twitter for a date with Taylor Swift, Wingnuts left-handed pitcher Ryan Hinson says, "You've got to give yourself opportunities."

Hinson should keep asking, because he's shown the ability to make the most of extra chances, at least in his baseball career.

After fighting just to make the Wingnuts out of spring training, Hinson has emerged as the club's most reliable starter, doing so after the disappointment of being released by the San Diego Padres.

"I wanted to come here and give it my best shot," Hinson said. "Once you get released and you know that you really have nothing to lose, it kind of gives you a different perspective on things. You know that there's more out there than playing baseball."

Hinson's new perspective is that he wants to be a college baseball coach, meaning the end of his baseball career won't be as devastating as it will be exciting.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound former Clemson pitcher hasn't lost his competitive edge or his desire to return to affiliated baseball. He's making the most of the showcase the Wingnuts are offering, with a 5-3 record and a 3.96 ERA.

With the departure of Nick Singleton to the Mexican League and the poor performances of other starters, Hinson has gone from hanger-on to ace in less than two months.

"I never looked at it as 'I'm going to be the ace,' but I am going to try to be the best No. 5 starter," Hinson said. "If I tell myself I'm the best pitcher on the staff or even in the league, I'm going to give myself a competitive edge because I believe that in myself."

Even though it hasn't happened yet, Hinson originally gave himself a good chance to succeed in affiliated ball by taking the risk of waiting. He was drafted in the 28th round out of high school, the 31st round after his junior year at Clemson, and he jumped to the 10th round after his senior season.

His high strikeout rate couldn't offset Hinson's elevated walks and hits totals, and San Diego gave up on him after he had shoulder surgery in March of 2010. A reliever in the Padres system, Hinson is now pitching as if he has the capability to contribute as a starter in affiliated ball.

"I worked hard in the offseason to at least give myself a chance," Hinson said. "If you're going to do something, you try to do it the best you can, and that's what I'm doing right now. If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be, but at least I gave it all I've got."

Playing hurt — Outfielder Ryan Patterson is attempting to play through a slightly torn right quadriceps muscle, which he suffered in a near-collision with an umpire earlier this month.

The umpire ran toward the baseline on a hit to the outfield as Patterson was approaching first base. Patterson had to contort to avoid running into the umpire, and as he did he felt a tweak in his upper leg.

Doctors have diagnosed it as a strain with minor tearing. He doesn't broach the subject of how it could affect his status because he doesn't want the answer.

"I don't really typically ask because if I can play I'm going to play," Patterson said. "I think they kind of know that about me. I'm trying to fight through it."

After collecting a hit on June 9, Patterson was batting .379. Since then, he has gone 9 for 51 and seen his average drop to .305 through Friday.

"It's more when I run," Patterson said. "It doesn't really bother me when I hit. It was better (Thursday) than it has been, but I'm still fighting it."

He can pick it — During their first two-plus seasons, the Wingnuts felt spoiled by Michael Thompson, who was considered one of the top defensive third basemen in the American Association.

Thompson looks adequate, at best, when compared to Juan Richardson, who currently mans the hot corner for the Wingnuts. A comparison probably isn't necessary, but Richardson's reacts more quickly than Thompson did, and Richardson has advantages in footwork, arm strength and range.

"He's got such good feet," Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper said. "He's always in position to throw the ball to first base, and he always gets his feet under him when he's able to."

Richardson's average has dropped more than 30 points, to .330, since July 9, but his value is high because of his abilities with the glove.

"I'm glad he's on our side," Hooper said. "He's scuffled a little bit offensively and he'd be the first to tell you that. But he's not going to have many bad nights (at third base)."