The Cardinals begin a series against the third-place Colorado Rockies tonight at 7:40 PM. Blake Hawksworth will make his fourth start of the season against Jeff Francis, recently and improbably recovered from labrum surgery. SB Nation blog Purple Row gave Francis a B in their first trimester report card:
Jeff Francis - B: After his last two outings, his ERA is on a steady increase and he may not be a viable starter for the whole season, but given what we know about labrum surgeries and seeing Brandon Webb struggling to get to a practice mound, the mere fact that Francis has been an asset is incredible.
Hawksworth has made an impressive recovery after struggling out of the bullpen and in his first Major League start, making two consecutive palatable starts against all odds. Viva El Birdos has this to say about his surprising renaissance:
Blake Hawksworth is like the Jeff Suppan we can all get behind. He's not all that great, and he's not all that likely to be great, but like Suppan he's been pretty decent, and unlike Suppan he's interesting to watch. With Jeff Suppan it is just a matter of putting three earned runs on the board, catching up on your DVR backlog for three to three-and-a-half hours, and flipping to Fox Sports just in time for Dennys Reyes to start the top of the sixth inning. With Blake Hawksworth there are all kinds of indicators of his effectiveness,
First indicator: velocity. Hawksworth threw in the mid-90s one shoulder surgery ago, when he was the Cardinals' top prospect both before and after labrum repair. (It was a different time for prospects in the dark ages between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of Future Redbirds.) In his second career as a second-tier suspect, from 2006 to 2008, he was supposed to be throwing high-80s-low-90s.
When he joined the Cardinals' bullpen in late 2009 after a noncommital cup of coffee and began throwing 95 miles per hour-at times throwing nothing but fastballs-it could at least be explained away as the effects of moving to the bullpen. But in his two solid starts he's averaged 94 and 93 with his fastball, which is a step beyond what could have been expected of Hawksworth at his most irrelevant in 2008. His strikeout rate was trending up at AAA-maybe it wasn't just craftiness.