Russ Haltiwanger: New to the Nest

St. Louis Cardinals Rule 5 selection, Russ Haltiwanger, took time out of his busy holiday schedule to talk to the Birdhouse's Dustin Mattison.

In the 2008 Rule 5 draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected pitcher Russ Haltiwanger during the Minor League phase of the proceedings. Tapped out of the Kansas City Royals organization, he was coming off a season in which he posted a 3.83 ERA in 35 relief appearances at High-A Wilmington. It was his second stop in the Carolina League after posting a 3.92 ERA in 37 appearances the previous season.

The Royals had acquired Haltiwanger from the Cincinnati Reds for shortstop Jeff Keppinger on January 10, 2007.

The 24 year old was originally drafted by the Reds in the 29th round of the 2005 MLB First Year Player Draft out of Newberry College. Over three seasons at the South Carolina school, the right-hander compiled a 14-11 record with 201 strikeouts in 190 2/3 innings. During his final season, his fastball was clocked at 92 MPH.

Over this busy holiday season, Haltiwanger was kind enough to share some of his time and answer a few questions.

Dustin Mattison: How did you find out you were selected in the Rule 5 draft?

Russ Haltiwanger: In all honesty, I had no idea that the Rule 5 draft was taking place at that time. About 11:45 that morning, I received a text message from a friend (and old teammate) - Jeff Stevens. He told me that the Cardinals had picked me up in the AAA phase. I immediately sent a response back to him, trying to find out if he was pulling my leg. About 45 minutes later, I received a phone call from the farm director of the Royals.

DM: Had the team made any type of contact with you before selection?

RH: Before the phone call from the Royals farm director the morning of the Rule 5 draft, I did not receive any type of information indicating that I might be selected.

DM: Were you expecting to get picked?

RH: I didn't have any expectations of being picked in the Rule 5.

DM: So what do you know about the Cardinals? What team did you root for when you were growing up?

RH: I am not too familiar with the Cardinals, but I've been doing research and am gaining knowledge about the organization. Since the draft, both my wife and I have had family friends, fellow church members, etc. approach "Hey, saw Russ got picked up by the Cards... that's my team, I grew up a Red Bird!" That's been pretty cool to see. I've been really happy to see that Cardinal fans are great fans. They love their team!

As a kid, I rooted for the Atlanta Braves. It was the team that was closest to me, geographically, and their AA team was in my hometown (Greenville Braves). It was cool to see Chipper, Glavine, Avery, Gant, Klesko, Blauser, etc grow up through their system.

DM: Have the Cardinals given you any indication what their plans for you are in 2009?

RH: They have not. All I can do is prepare myself the best I can and come to Spring Training ready to play.

DM: I know you were traded from the Reds to the Royals in January 2007. Will that experience help you with this transition?

RH: It certainly will. It will be a fresh start, one in which I am very excited about. Very excited about getting back to the East coast for Spring Training.

DM: Can you tell us about your pitching repertoire?

RH: I have been with two different organizations that teach totally different mechanics, and have had different ideas when it comes to working with pitchers. However, both have required a heavy dose of 4-seam fastballs, making sure I throw a reasonable combo of change-ups. Not many sliders.

DM: What are you doing this off-season? Is there anything in particular that you are working on?

RH: During the workweek, I work with my brother-in-law who owns a landscaping company. Monday thru Sunday, I am dedicating a lot of time getting myself in shape - physically and mentally - for spring. I am working to maintain arm and shoulder health. And I also want to gain whole-body flexibility and strength. I want to show up in Florida and be in the best shape of my life.

DM: What do you like to do when you are not playing baseball?

RH: I enjoy spending time with my beautiful wife; we were high school sweethearts. We have two dogs - Batman and Hogan (Batman is a French Bulldog and Hogan is a Boston Terrier mix) that occupy most of our time. I also love Clemson Tiger sports. In fact, I just got back from seeing the Tigers play in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

DM: You played with Jay Bruce at Dayton. What was it like to get to watch him on a day-to-day basis?

RH: Bruce was (and is) a class act. It was a privilege to play on the same team and be around him on a day-to-day basis. He carried himself in a respectable manor and thought he had as much to prove as the next guy. He worked harder than anyone on the team and is where he is today because of his hard work in the minors.

DM: I welcome Russ to the Cardinals and wish him the best of luck in his Red Bird career. Also, I would like to thank him for taking time out of his schedule to answer a few questions for our readers.

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