Exclusive Interview: Blake Hawksworth

Memphis Redbirds starting pitcher Blake Hawksworth recaps his up-and-down 2007 season in this exclusive interview.

It has been said many times that which does not kill you makes you stronger. Almost hitting rock bottom and struggling on the field for the first time seemed to have made Blake Hawksworth stronger mentally. 


Blake Hawksworth was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 28th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. He was not signed until the following May, receiving a $1.475 million contract. 


Hawksworth found almost immediate success, finishing at High Class A Palm Beach by the end of his first full pro season.  Lofty expectations were placed on the right-hander going into 2004. 


Baseball America named him the top prospect in the Cardinals' system.  The problem was Blake could not stay healthy enough to fulfill those expectations.  Hawksworth only pitched 25 innings in 2004 and 2005 combined.


The 2006 season saw Blake healthy again.  After going 11-4 with a 2.92 ERA between Palm Beach and Springfield, Hawksworth was named The Birdhouse Minor League Pitcher of the Year.


Coming into the 2007 season rated as the #2 Cardinals' prospect by the Birdhouse, Hawksworth found Triple A to be a huge adjustment.  Blake finished the season with a record of 4-13 with a 5.28 ERA. 


I was able to sit down talk to Hawksworth before a game during the Memphis' last series of the season. 


How does the shoulder feel?


It feels good.  It was barking a little during my last start in Albuquerque.  But it was not anything alarming.  It was more precautionary; I've been playing catch.


What's your plan for the winter?


Go home and rest a little bit.  Get some physical therapy, stay on top of the shoulder, keep it strong in the weight room and get ready for spring.


What has been the biggest difference in Triple A compared to the other levels in the Minors?


It's a tougher league coming from Double A.  The biggest difference is your facing some veteran hitters, guys with more experience.  I've missed a couple of years due to injuries and this really is just my third year.  There are adjustments I need to make, more mental than physical.  Learning how to pitch certain people.  Knowing how I need to be mentally when I take the ball every fifth day. 


I felt my last three or four starts went well (Hawksworth averaged five innings pitched and seven strikeouts in those starts) and I kind of figured that out.  I am glad it ended strong.  Obviously, I didn't want to miss these last two starts but I know it's the right thing to do.  I am already excited about next year. 


You mentioned your success in your last three or four starts; what changed? 


It's been a tough year, especially wins and losses.  I had a rough couple of months, June and July.  I've been in a place where I had never been before in this game.  I almost hit rock bottom.  I felt like I needed to be able to let go and just go out and pitch.  Once I was able to go out and compete and keep it simple; that was the key.  Once I locked into that, the results followed.


What was more difficult, struggling for the first time in your career or rehabbing an injury? 


Injuries are the hardest.  Physically it's tough, the aches and pains on the mound have an effect on you mentally.  You tend to doubt yourself.  You think, ‘I'm not at 100%', and then some fear creeps in.  That's always been my biggest battle - my health.  I was happy with how my arm held up this year and especially last year.  But the struggles are what make you better.


Taking out the stats, tell me how you feel you progressed during the year.


Beginning of the year I felt timid at times.  My last four starts, I got back in attack mode.  I felt my stuff got a lot better.  My strikeouts went up.  I found that rhythm I had been searching for.  So, I am going to lock that in mentally.   What that felt like in the last four.  I want to keep that going through the winter and come into spring with that same attitude. 

Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at dustin@whiteyball.com.

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