The Hawk is Finally Flying

The Cardinals former organizational Top Prospect, Blake Hawksworth, has been promoted to Double-A Springfield and is expected to start next Tuesday night at Corpus Christi. Signed as a draft-and-follow in May of 2002 for $1.475 million, Hawkworth has been plagued with injuries keeping him from developing into a major league pitcher, until maybe now.

Throughout the first four years of his professional career, if things could go wrong for Blake Hawksworth, they did. Look up "Murphy's Law" in the Cardinal Dictionary and you'll find his picture there.

The Cardinals drafted Blake in the 28th round out of Bellevue (Washington) Community College and signed him in May of 2002.

At the time he was signed, Hawksworth was projected as a potential Major League top of the rotation starter. The 6'3" 195 pound right-hander, had a fastball that set in the low 90s, one of the best changeups in the system.

In his first professional season with the Cardinals he split playing time between Johnson City, where he went 2-4 with a 3.14 ERA and made two starts at New Jersey and finished with a 1-0 record and a 0.00 ERA.

In 2003, the first of a series of injuries that eventually derailed his progress began. Bone spurs in his ankle required surgery that season to remove them. In spite of that, his combined 2.91 ERA for 2003, between Peoria and Palm Beach, ranked tied for 7th among Cards minor league starters.

Hawksworth held opposing batters to a .205 batting average in 03, good enough to be the 6th best in the system and he was looking forward to getting back on the mound in 2004.

The following season, Hawksworth was limited to just 11 innings pitched, because he suffered from a partially torn labrum that require surgery to remove loose cartilage further delaying his progress.

The Cardinals exercised extreme caution with Hawksworth last season. Still considered one of the Cardinals Top Prospects, (Ranked #3 by Baseball America in 04) the Cards took their time with him, bringing him along very slowly.

Blake kept breaking down last season with a series of nagging injuries that kept him from making quality starts. After his record reached the 0-3 mark with a 7.98 ERA, the Cardinals decided to shut him down for the season.

Hawksworth was then put on a throwing program and the organization encouraged him to rest, because the Cardinals thought he had tried to do too much in rehab.

Doing too much is a common problem in rehab. The pain goes away and a pitcher thinks he is ready to pitch, when in fact, he needs more time for the healing process to continue and rebuilding the muscles in the arm and shoulders.

When you are in your early to mid 20s like Hawksworth, the body almost lies to you at that age, whereas in my case, at 51, I tell my body what to do and it thinks I'm lying to it, or at least, I must be kidding.

Blake reported to spring training this season, healthy and ready to pitch. To date, he has posted a 7-2 won-loss record with the Palm Beach Cardinals, with a 2.47 ERA.

St. Louis pitching coordinator Mark Riggins has said that Hawksworth has not experienced any discomfort in his shoulder.

Hawksworth, who will start Tuesday night at Corpus Christi, will take the rotation spot left vacant by the departure of left-hander Rich Rundles, who was traded this past week to the New York Mets for future considerations.

The Hawk is flying high once again and Springfield, Missouri isn't that far from Baseball Heaven, St. Louis.

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