Boise pitcher Logan Sawyer could have taken the demotion plenty of ways.
He could have sulked. He could have moped. He could have turned on the cruise control for a league where he posted a 3.43 ERA last season.
Instead, the 6-foot-3 starter took it as motivation.
“I had some good starts there and I finished OK there in Asheville, but they sent me here,” said Sawyer, who posted a 5.79 ERA as a piggyback starter for the Rockies’ Low-A affiliate before joining the Hawks. “I took it as motivation, and I came here with my hair on fire and said, ‘I’m going to get better.’ ”
Sawyer’s attitude has benefited the Hawks, where he stands as a rare bright spot on a struggling pitching staff after excelling with the Tri-City Dust Devils last year, Colorado’s previous affiliate in the league.
Entering Thursday, Boise ranked last in the league in ERA (5.35) by more than a full run, last in strikeouts (220) and tied for last in WHIP (1.46). But Sawyer stands ninth in the league with a 3.30 ERA to go along with a 1.17 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in 30 innings.
He’ll start for the Hawks vs. the Hillsboro Hops on Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Sawyer credits the turnaround in Boise to a couple of nuggets he’s picked up as a pro. One includes focusing on his balance as a long-limbed right-hander. The other comes from breathing.
Before each pitch, he inhales deeply to clear his mind. He then lets out that deep breath in one swoop during his windup and as he delivers, driving all of his energy toward home plate.
“My mom always says deep breath, short prayer,” the 22-year-old said. “It slows everything down for me. When I do that, I see the catcher a little bit better and things just become a lot easier for me.”
Sawyer didn’t enter the Colorado Rockies’ organization with much fanfare. A 29th-round pick last summer out of Lincoln Memorial University, an NCAA Division II school in Tennessee, the Rockies consigned him to the bullpen to start last summer in Tri-Cities.
He picked up innings where he could until a teammate’s promotion earned him a spot start. He’s bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen since. But he’s found a home anchoring Boise’s rotation this summer.
All five of his appearances have come as a starter. And he’s dominated right-handed hitters in the league, holding them to a .181 average with a sinking fastball.
“It’s a natural sink,” Hawks manager Frank Gonzales said. “It’s not something that he’s forcing or trying to do. The way his hand manipulates the baseball naturally sinks it.”
HOPS STYMIE HAWKS
Hillsboro starter Carlos Hernandez and reliever Troy Marks combined to hold Boise to one run on three hits in a 4-1 victory Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Hernandez fired six, one-hit innings with eight strikeouts for South Division-leading Hillsboro (20-15). Marks held Boise (12-23) to a one-hit shutout until the Hawks scored their only run in the ninth. Steven Leonard doubled and then scored on Marco Derkes two-out single.
The Hawks host Hillsboro on Friday and Saturday before wrapping up the first half of the season Sunday in Eugene.
HOPS 4, HAWKS 1
LOB — Hillsboro 6, Boise 2. 2B — Olmeda 2, J.Smith, Padlo, Leonard. 3B — Ozuna. CS — Irving, H.Marte, L.Castro.
|C.Hernandez W, 2-1||6||2||0||0||1||8||1.47|
|T.Marks S, 1||3||2||1||1||0||0||9.00|
|Wynkoop L, 2-1||5||6||3||3||1||5||3.60|
PB — H.Marte. PO — by Wynkoop (Irving). T — 2:10. A — 3,444.