Hagerty Starting All Over Again

There are plenty of reasons why left-hander Luke Hagerty, one of four first-round Cubs draft picks in the year 2002, should be disappointed with the year 2005. It all started when he injured his finger one game into a Spring Training stint that saw him with a fighting chance to make the Florida Marlins' opening day roster. It ended with a plus-31 ERA and 30 walks to just four strikeouts at the lowest A-ball affiliate in the Cubs' system.

But to start right over from scratch? Believe it.

"There were some things I was doing that I didn't even realize," said Hagerty, whose finger injury only succeeded a blown elbow that required Tommy John surgery in March of 2003. "Those things were messing me up. I'm correcting them and trying to get back to normal. I'm throwing bullpens and basically learning how to throw all over again."

The Cubs initially lost Hagerty to the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft last year at the Winter Meetings in Anaheim, Calif. The very day the Orioles drafted him, they traded him to the Florida Marlins, where Hagerty competed for a big league job in Spring Training in Jupiter, Fla. He was returned to the Cubs in early April and didn't see action due to the finger until June.

Since the season ended, Hagerty has gone back to work with Tom Held, his head coach from Defiance High School in Ohio.

"I've been throwing three times a week, working with him," Hagerty said. "He changed a couple of things. I think I'm almost there. Since my season has been over, I've been able to do a lot of drills. I'm really happy."

Among those things Hagerty has worked with Held to change are, well, "pretty much everything," he said. "We really didn't break it down too much. Since I've been home, I've felt tons better. My arm slot feels the same as before, so I think I got that back. I don't feel like I'm fighting myself to try and throw the ball anymore. It feels a lot more loose and effortless."

Hagerty added, "I never really got my arm slot back since the (Tommy John) surgery and I was throwing too high. My arm slot was too high and just unnatural. I think I raised it because I was worried about my elbow and re-injuring it. I think it naturally went up."

The most alarming thing about Hagerty's stint in Boise, which included only 14 games (13 in relief), was not so much the earned runs allowed (23 in 6 2/3 innings), but the lack of control which led to them. Control problems was something Hagerty dealt with last season at Boise when he was fresh on the return from the elbow injury, but the walk totals then (nine in nine innings) were nothing to the extent of those in 2005.

"There were so many things that I was doing wrong," Hagerty said in explaining the walks. "They all sort of added up and the end result was zero control. I lost a lot of velocity because of all the little things I was fighting against. Being able to do the drill work, I was able to see a lot of things I didn't realize I was doing. Other than my arm slot, I was swinging my front arm and my balance wasn't right. I would land too far off to the left. I would come across my body, cutting everything off. I wasn't snapping my wrist right. I was completely out of whack. I didn't look like myself throwing."

Asked what he thought led to all of the struggles in the first place, Hagerty said he believed it was from being out an extended period of time. His rehab following Tommy John surgery was longer than most pitchers, he said, and several setbacks along the way led to the development of some bad habits.

"Most of them were really subtle and ended up becoming a big deal," Hagerty said.

Hagerty's confidence level also took a big hit.

"It was really tough, especially knowing what I'm capable of doing and how I should be throwing," he said. "I was really frustrated, but it was something I knew I had to go through. I think it'll help me out a lot in the long run. It can't get any worse than this past year, and what I had to go through. Everything else from now on will be easy to overcome because of that."

But Hagerty isn't counting on anything getting in his way from now on. His only goal heading into the long off-season is simply to throw strikes and re-gain some added mph on his velocity. He isn't worried about what level he gets to next year, either. Hagerty will again be Rule 5 eligible in all likelihood this winter, too.

"I really doubt anybody will pick me up after the year I had," Hagerty said. "I'm not worried about that. I'm pretty confident I'll be with the Cubs this year."

And that can only be considered a good thing.

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