Up-and-Down Season for Hawks' Hagerty

Much has been made in regards to the control problems of former first round pick and left-hander Luke Hagerty this season. Hagerty, now in his third stint with the Class-A Boise Hawks, has a very simple response to all the inquiries surrounding the walk totals.

"I don't know," he said. "I really don't know. Not that the walk totals are necessarily deceiving, but I would be 3-2 on a lot of hitters and just miss off the plate. There have been a lot of those situations. I've been working hard to get my control back. It'll be there with a couple of batters and then gone the next."

Hagerty was one of two Cub prospects taken in the 2004 Rule Five Draft last December. The other needs no introduction, but the first round pick in 2002 (one of four by the Cubs that year) was returned from the Florida Marlins at the end of Spring Training.

An injury to Hagerty's left middle finger limited him to only one game in the Grapefruit League this spring.

"I was throwing in the bullpen one day when the ball came off weird. It felt like all of the pressure was on that one finger," said Hagerty, a Ball State alumnus and 32nd overall draft pick. "They said I had a bone bruise on my finger. I couldn't even pick up a ball and grip it for two solid weeks. It was three to four weeks before I was able to throw again."

By then, Hagerty had already been returned to the Cubs. Although the finger turned out to be a lingering issue, he insists it is not the cause for his control problems with the Hawks. High hopes surrounded him when he went to the Marlins' spring camp.

"I couldn't wait to get down there," Hagerty said. "It wasn't a big shock that they returned me to the Cubs. I was still disappointed, only because I didn't perform the way I wanted to."

While Hagerty's stint with the Marlins didn't go quite the way he would have liked, it was not a complete loss. With the club, he received pitching tips from veteran Al Leiter and young stars Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis.

"He (Leiter) would help me out as much as he could," Hagerty said.

"Maybe it's that we're both left-handers. Everyone put their two cents in, though. I was having some control problems then, too. [Leiter] always told me there would be times when I'd throw good pitches and bad pitches and to just not worry about it. You have to put it in the back of your mind."

And so – despite a total of 21 walks to three strikeouts with the Hawks – that's exactly what Hagerty has been doing. The 24-year-old Ohio native says he has been placing more emphasis on the mental side of his game lately.

"I've been doing a lot of mental work," he said. "Things like controlling my breathing, my emotions and everything. I've been working with "Rosie" (pitching coach Dave Rosario) a lot on getting fully extended with my mechanics. For the most part, I'm just trying to stay focused on what I'm doing."

Hagerty's professional career got off to a promising start in his rookie season—also with the Hawks. He made 10 starts for Boise in 2002, posting a 1.13 ERA and notching 50 strikeouts to 15 walks. But less than a year later, he underwent "Tommy John" surgery and missed all of 2003 before returning to Boise last season.

Between the Hawks and Arizona League Mesa Cubs, Hagerty pitched a total of 22 2/3 innings in 2004 before he was shut down. That's why he says getting a chance with the Marlins earlier this year was so special.

"It was awesome, especially since I've been rehabbing for practically two years straight," Hagerty said. "It was great to get back into a baseball environment, especially with a team like the Marlins and how they go about their business on a daily basis. It was pretty interesting just to watch them. Just being there was great."

Hagerty's goal is to be there again one day, and with the Cubs. He still believes the Cubs are the right organization to take him there.

"I like the Cubs a lot and all of their coaches," Hagerty said. "Everyone has been real patient with me. I owe them a lot."

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