In my blogger-revolutionary days I might have been unwilling to admit it, but at this point it's clear that I can look at the same outcomes for two different players and think conflicting adjectives—to be more precise, that I can't not do it. Chris Carpenter's hit-filled win against the Nationals was being described as "gutty" on Fox Sports Midwest as it was happening. Gutty is an ugly word, but a positive one—it focuses on the good result at the expense of certain off-putting moments that happened in the course of it.
His outing was better—less of a long-term concern than Garcia's five pitch pitcher-walk—but it shouldn't, logically, be the dividing line between a "gutty" start and a "shaky" one. But so it goes: Veteran Cy Youngs emeritus have gutty starts where they allow a lot of baserunners; hotshot rookies whose arm problems still linger in the back of Hyperventilating Prospect Geek heads have shaky ones.
It was good shaky, though. The walks came with a lot of strikeouts, delivered in his usual diverse way—sliders, fastballs, and cutters, all swinging—and there were no further occasions for Al to opine on the fundamental rightness of getting really mad after you give up a home run and have to be removed from the game. For his part, La Russa showed admirable restraint in pulling the rotation golden boy below both 100 pitches and six innings, cutting his Quality Start streak short at seven.
Less-admirable restraint: The Cardinals failing to hit Anibal Sanchez, who for his part appears to be on his way to cutting his Lost Season streak short at three.
Just-plain-less admirable: Blake Hawksworth pitching himself out of high leverage situations.
This being a twenty-first century team, somebody has to be the long reliever, so Tony La Russa's understandable reluctance to put him in the crosshairs during his ugly May doesn't really hurt the Cardinals a lot, in terms of flexibility or wins and losses—somebody also had to pitch four innings today, so some (exceedingly small fraction) of the blame currently resting entirely on the bullpen and the offense has to reside with Jaime Garcia, who ensured that the Cardinals would spend at least one tie-ballgame inning in the company of its worst relievers.
But two additional months have made it no easier to gauge Blake Hawksworth's wor—look, that's an awkward sentence, I'm just going to do the pun—Hawk's worthiness as a Major League bullpen asset. It's not just that the extra velocity he gets as a reliever wasn't available for us to observe in Memphis; it's that on a month to month basis he morphs from the pitcher he needs to be to earn a consistent spot in the bullpen to the pitcher that gets brought in one-for-one in ex-WonderBrad situations. In his first three months as a Cardinal—19 appearances—he walked five batters; that September, he walked 10 in 11. In April, he walked two batters in nine innings; in May, he's walked five, including a pitcher, in eight.
Hawksworth, in spite of his newly better-than-adequate fastball, isn't going to strike out a batter an inning, even in the bullpen; if he's going to last the season as a reliever it'll have to be with the control-first regimen he found intermittent success with in the minors, post-shoulder surgery.
Hawksworth is out of options, but while we're thinking about it, late-March sure-thing Fernando Salas has recovered from a rough start to post some gaudy K:BB numbers—17:3, at last count—but noted braintrust fascination Adam Ottavino's also off to his best start since the low minors. After his near-miss no-hitter on Tuesday he's struck out 35 batters against seven walks in 36 innings. Mitchell Boggs's solid start is going to make it hard for another right-handed reliever to get a cup of coffee without injury, but if Hawksworth's control continues to waver the Cardinals have proven recently that they're not above, say, trading an interesting fourth outfielder for a mediocre right-handed reliever, allowing him to struggle briefly, and then waiving him after a month. (Not, finally, that we were missing much.)