After a losing bout with shoulder injuries, Cardinals minor league pitcher Jeremy Hefner elected to retire from professional baseball earlier this week. Hefner is 30 years old.
Via a Facebook post, Hefner, representing his wife, Sarah, as well as himself, mentioned the bodily predicaments that have been hampering his playing time, which ultimately led to a torn right rotator cuff, an injury that as he creeps into the wrong side of 30 would be less than ideal to make an attempt at a repair in hopes of returning to pitch.
Hefner was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Oral Roberts University, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The right-hander hurled at various levels in the minors for a handful of years before making his big-league debut in April 2012 with the New York Mets. Hefner appeared in 26 games for New York in 2012, half of them as a starter, a role that proved to be his strongest and subsequently led to a full-time starter’s job with the Mets in 2013.
Across 24 games (23 starts) in 2013, Hefner logged 130 2⁄3 frames for New York, during which he managed a 99:37 strikeout-to-walk ratio and maintained a 1.29 WHIP, the third best among Mets starters, trailing Matt Harvey (0.93) and Dillon Gee (1.28).
Hefner’s solid first season of starting was snapped in the second-to-last month of year when he found out he needed Tommy John surgery, sidelining him for the remainder of the ‘13 campaign and until late July 2014.
It was less than two weeks following his return that he hit the shelf yet again, this time with a strained forearm that all but held Hefner down for the rest of the year. After returning to round out ‘14, Hefner required a second elbow surgery, and — being that he probably returned too early the first go around — was sidelined by the operation for the entirety of 2015.
The Cardinals decided to take a chance on the ailing Hefner in December 2015, inking the righty to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training. In wake of a successful, injury-free camp, Hefner joined the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, where he made eighteen starts and pitched to a 5.25 earned run average in 2016, a year that wasn't completely free of injury, considering he was on the disabled list for about two month’s time.
It was in that same year that Hefner was diagnosed with the torn rotator cuff, another injury to add to his lengthy list of ailments. At age 30, with big-league time under his belt to cap off a baseball career that began back in Little League, Hefner decided to call it quits about a month removed from the commencement of spring training.
Hefner’s former Cardinals teammates took to social media to pay their respects to the departing right-hander:
@jeremy_hefner53 all the best to you and your family! Thanks for being a stellar teammate!— Patrick Wisdom (@PatrickWisdom5) January 18, 2017