Blake Hawksworth: Cardinal to Watch in 2010


Blake Hawksworth finished 2009 as one of the top bullpen options for the Cardinals. He has been at the top of the Cards farm system for eight years, mainly because of injury problems. After last season’s performance, it appears Hawksworth is ready to fulfill his potential for the big league club. In 30 games with St. Louis, he was 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA out of the ‘pen. That small taste has Cards fans hungry for more in 2010.

It also landed him on the USA Today’s list of 100 Names You Need To Know. Hawksworth is ranked No. 54 on the list — good for the top Cardinals prospect. Also on the list: David Freese who will likely be the starter at third, and Allan Craig who has some pop in his bat and hopes to earn a roster spot this Spring.

Hawksworth was the No. 1 Cardinal to watch, though, so what makes him so special?

He was a 28th round draft pick in 2001 out of high school. Nearly a decade later and it seems he has finally put it all together. Injuries and inexperience kept him from earlier success. Ankle and foot problems early were followed by a torn labrum that needed surgery. Ankle injuries may seem small and have little effect on pitching, but without a strong lower body the pitcher cannot get the drive off the mound needed for effective pitching. His fastball will lose velocity and his curve will flatten out. A shoulder injury is more obvious and is hard to overcome to have a successful career. Many young pitchers that never make it blow out their arms before they even had a chance. Now, the injuries are behind Hawksworth.

Fans wondered if he would ever pan out. Well, it may be worth the wait. He has learned more about pitching during rehabs and can truly appreciate how far he has come. The perseverance he had to make the Majors will come in handy in that bases loaded jam. He gained a certain level of toughness grinding his way through the minors that made him a better pitcher.

Hawksworth possesses a good fastball, a curve, slider, and changeup. His changeup is his “out” pitch, keeping hitters off balance and getting ground balls. He keeps the pitch down to go with the sinking movement it has. The rest of his repertoire is good, but not always great. He must mix pitches well to keep each one sharp and get outs. His curve shows promise with big 12-6 drop sometimes, and his slider gives the hitter another pitch to think about. Each of these pitches is bound to improve each year with Dave Duncan’s coaching and Hawksworth’s work ethic. He has an outside shot at the fifth spot in the rotation along with a stable of others. It will be fun to see the 2010 version after a full offseason in which his confidence had to be at an all-time high.

He also has a great personality for the humbling game of baseball. After all the injuries, he knows he has to enjoy the ride. He has been sharing his thoughts this offseason with fans on his St. Louis Globe-Democrat Blog. Hawksworth keeps it light and fun, with some baseball insight laced within his recent day’s experience. From his Wedding this offseason to fantasy football to hitting, Hawksworth has done a great job with the blog. He also went with the Saints on Super Bowl Sunday, so hopefully the luck continues this baseball season. Blake is also active on his Twitter account for everyone in Tweet Nation. From interesting thoughts to Scripture passages, Blake shares his beliefs with the world.

Among his most recent Tweets, Blake shared this verse:

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” -John 3:30

The down to earth attitude is a great thing to have in the daunting world of sports. For Blake, less is more in life and on the diamond. He is a small part in the larger plan of God. He just tries to help his team as best he can, no matter how small the task.