Written by Joe Demski
Despite being one of the youngest players in the Orioles’ farm system, Brenan Hanifee has a professional mindset and the tools to be successful. “There’s not too many situations I’m in that I don’t expect I’m going to be successful,” Hanifee said. After essentially spending a year as a medical redshirt, the 19 year old righty has demonstrated laser focus and ace potential for the Aberdeen Ironbirds in his early starts.
As of 7/20, Hanifee is 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA in 28 innings pitched for the Ironbirds, and his transition to Aberdeen could not have gone much smoother. At the conclusion of extended spring training, Hanifee was informed that he would be assigned to the New York-Penn League (a move he admits he anticipated, but did not bank on). Hanifee was ecstatic about the move. “If you don’t get to play here,” Hanifee said of the facilities and coaching staff in Aberdeen, “you should feel cheated.” Regarding pitching coach Mark Hendrickson, Hanifee stated that the coach is “a perfect fit” and has provided resources both on and off the field to ensure player success.
Hanifee knew that his debut would come in the third game of the team’s opening series against Connecticut Tigers, however his new reality sunk in during opening night. “I was used to getting off the bus, stepping onto a field, and just playing,” Hanifee stated, “Now there’s BP at 4 and about 5000 people in the stands.”
It didn’t take long for him to get comfortable in his first career start two nights later. He prepared the same as always and treated the game just as any other with a “few more people in the stands than high school.” Due to some early jitters, Hanifee admits he left his fastball up and got it hit hard. However, great defensive play behind him got the team out of the inning fairly easily. “I felt settled in at the end of the 1st,” Hanifee said of his first start. He admits that his confidence took hold though later in the game when he got out of a jam thanks to an inning-ending double play. From that first start on, the pitcher’s confidence has grown and he’s learned something from each time out.
Not everything has been easy though, Hanifee admits. The team’s first road trip faced an unexpected hiccup. “We arrived at the hotel at 5am and they didn’t think there were going to be enough rooms for us,” Hanifee laughed, “We slept 4 guys to a room, 2 to a bed.” The heavier workload has been the toughest adjustment for the young pitcher. However, it is getting less difficult every week. Hanifee is known for having a live arm and a plus fastball, but he has focused on “not so much adding, but improving what I have” in terms of secondary pitches. After relying very heavily on his fastball in his first two starts, he has worked extensively on employing offspeed and breaking pitches more frequently. The most important lesson he believes he has learned so far is the importance of building relationships and learning from “yourself and the guys you’re around.” You’re expected learn more on your own than directly from the coaching. As Hanifee says, “I have the same throwing partner everyday for that reason. You have to rely on the guys around you to point things out for you to improve on.”
Brenan Hanifee is enjoying his time in Aberdeen and picking up every piece of information he can, but if his level of performance keeps up don’t expect him to stay there long. Some guys pay close attention to everyone ahead of them at their position within the organization. While Brenan Hanifee knows that he’ll be ready when the opportunity presents itself, he laughs at that notion and says, “I’m 19. I didn’t pitch last year. I’m not going to put myself ahead of anybody else.”