Before 2009: The Yankees drafted Hacker all the way back in 2002, selecting him in the 23rd round. He made three scoreless appearances with their Gulf Coast League affiliate that year, which is where he’d return in 2003. He split that year between the GCL and Staten Island, but finished the year on the DL with what was labeled as an elbow strain.
Turns out, it was a bit more than that…Hacker missed all of 2004 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and wouldn’t pitch again until May of 2005, when he joined Low-A Charleston. But he only lasted two months there, going on the DL with a shoulder injury that would keep him out for the remainder of 2005 and all of 2006.
Hacker’s career finally got on the right track in 2007. He started the year back in Charleston and pitched very well, posting a 9-2 record with a 2.56 ERA in 17 starts before being promoted to High-A Tampa for the first time in his career. He got knocked around a little bit with Tampa, going 3-3 with a 6.10 ERA in nine appearances, and was called up to Triple-A Scranton at the end of the year for a one start cameo.
The Duncanville, Texas native started his 2008 season in Tampa, and got off to a great start, posting a 2-2 mark with a 1.87 ERA in nine starts before earning his first call-up to Double-A in the end of May. Hacker quickly emerged as one of the most consistent starters on the staff, going 7-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 17 starts and helping the club win their second consecutive Eastern League title.
2009: Hacker, who was placed on the Yankees 40-man roster prior to the start of the season, was finally starting to open some eyes in the organization. Brian Cashman had mentioned him by name several times in 2008, and it seemed Hacker had a real chance to crack the big league roster at some point in the season, whether it be in September or otherwise.
He was named the Thunder’s Opening Day starter, and lasted just three starts before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton. After three poor starts up there, the Yankees suddenly ran out of patience…something that hadn’t been a problem in their handling of Hacker in the past. Hacker was DFA’d and eventually traded to — where else — Pittsburgh for Romulo Sanchez.
Hacker pitched well for the Pirates Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, going 5-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 21 starts with the club. He earned a September call-up to the big leagues, and made his big league debut in front of approximately 1,000 people in Pittsburgh. He made three big league appearances in all, and was taken off the 40-man roster this off-season.
After 2009: Hacker’s status in the Pirates organization is somewhat of a mystery, and he’ll have to work hard to get back on the 40-man roster.
I really, really enjoyed covering Eric during his time with the Thunder. We still keep in touch via e-mail, and he was kind enough to call me last off-season to give me his thoughts on having been added to the Yankees 40-man roster. He was a soft-spoken, but friendly guy…and I hope the Pirates give him another chance in the big leagues. If nothing else, he should get an opportunity in Triple-A in 2010, and that seems to be more than the Yankees were willing to do for him after having been so patient with him as he recovered from a variety of injuries.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com