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LaTroy Hawkins

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LaTroy Hawkins

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[edit] Biographical Information

LaTroy Hawkins won a Pitching Triple Crown in the Midwest League in 1993 while pitching for the Fort Wayne Wizards. He led the league with a 2.06 ERA, 15 wins, and 179 strikeouts. He spent the first 9 seasons of his career with the Minnesota Twins, who had drafted him in the 7th round of the 1991 amateur draft. From 1995 to 1999, he was exclusively a starting pitcher: 98 of his 99 appearances over that stretch were in the role. Moved the bullpen at the start of the 2000 season, he has not started a single game since.

Hawkins did not have much success as a starter. In his five seasons in the role, his best ERA was 5.25, and twice he allowed over 8 earned runs per 9 innings. He had a combined ERA of 6.16 in over 500 innings. He twice lost 14 games, and once lost 12, and only was at .500 once: in 1996 when he finished 1-1. He led the American League in earned runs allowed in 1999. Things turned around completely when he moved to the bullpen, at the suggestion if Twins manager Tom Kelly, who thought rightly that his outstanding control would be of greater impact in such a role. His ERA fell to 3.39 and he had 13 saves in 2000. He followed that by recording a career-high 28 saves in 2001, but the rest of his numbers were as bad as anything he had put up as a starter: 1-5, 5.96, and 59 hits and 39 walks allowed in 51 1/3 innings, against only 31 strikeouts. He moved to a middle relief role in 2002 and finally found his calling: he was 6-0, 2.13 in 65 games that year, and 9-3, 1.86 in 74 appearances in 2003. He cashed in by signing a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs in 2004, who justified the big money spent on LaTroy by moving him back to the closer role. He had more success this time, with a record of 5-4, 2.63 and 25 saves that first season, including the 300th win of Greg Maddux's career, but he never gained the confidence of Cubs' fans.

Hawkins began the nomadic phase of his career in 2005. He was traded by the Cubs to the San Francisco Giants on May 28th for pitchers David Aardsma and Jerome Williams. He went 1-4 for each of the two teams that year, finishing at 2-8, 3.83 in 66 games. He was then traded by the Giants to the Baltimore Orioles on December 6th for P Steve Kline. He pitched for Baltimore in 2006, then moved to the Colorado Rockies as a free agent in 2007. That year, he had as chance to pitch in the World Series for the only time of his career, as the Rockies went on a late-season torrid streak to elbow their way into the playoffs, then won 7 straight games to reach the Fall Classic, where they were swept in four games by the Boston Red Sox. LaTroy was 2-5, 3.42 in 62 games during the regular season, and gave up a run in two innings in the Series, after three scoreless appearances in the first two rounds of postseason play. He pitched for the New York Yankees in 2008, but appeared to have reached the end of the line when he put up a 5.71 ERA in 33 games, prompting a trade to the Houston Astros at the trading deadline. However, he turned things right around with Houston, with an ERA of 0.43 in 24 games and followed that with a 2.13 mark in 65 games in 2009.

Hawkins then pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010 and 2011; he was 0-3, 8.44 in 18 games the first year, but bounced back to a record of 3-1, 2.42 in 52 appearances the second. That first season in Milwaukee was the only time he experienced a physical ailment in his long career, as he had to undergo surgery to fix a frayed labrum. The Brewers reached the NLCS in 2011, with LaTroy contributing four scoreless relief appearances in the playoffs. He moved to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2012 and continued to be effective, with a 3.64 ERA in 48 appearances. On July 3, 2013, pitching for the New York Mets - his 10th team - he passed Hall of Famer Cy Young with 906 career games pitched, putting him 22nd all-time in the category. It was a rare occasion for LaTroy to receive press coverage, as most of his long career has been spent away from the media glare. He was second on the active leaders' list, behind Mariano Rivera, but still over 100 appearances away from making the top 10. However, with him still pitching as well as ever at that point, getting into that rarefied company was still a possibility. Commenting on his huge number of appearances, he stated: "I can't believe that managers have sent me out there that many times, first of all. Who trusted me to go out there that many times? But it's a great accomplishment." Hawkins finished the season at 3-2, 2.93 and recorded 13 saves as he filled the Mets' closer's role late in the year. With Mariano Rivera having retired at the end of the season, Hawkins became the active major league leader in games pitched, with 943. On November 18th, he signed a one-year deal to return to Colorado, where he would be given a chance to be the team's closer in 2014. He was again outstanding in the role, converting 17 of 18 save opportunities with a 2.45 ERA in the first half. There was speculation that he would be moved the trading deadline, but he spent the entire year with the Rockies. He finished the year at 4-3, 3.31 with 23 saves in 57 games, ending the year with an even 1000 appearances on the mound in his career, only the 16th player to reach the milestone.

Now the oldest player in the major leagues, Hawkins announced before the start of spring training with Colorado in 2015 that the season would be his last one as an active player. While he stated that he sometimes had trouble relating to players from the younger generation, he explained that his longevity thus: "I have nice, easy mechanics. I'm not a drop, drive and a screamer. I don't have body parts going everywhere. My mechanics aren't violent." He lost his closer job quickly that season, after a few poor early-season performances. After getting the save against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first appearance of the season on April 7th, he gave up two 9th-inning runs to the Brewers the next day to blow a save opportunity, although he was credited with the win when the Rockies scored in the top of the 10th; in his next appearance on the 12th, he gave up a two-run homer to former teammate Dexter Fowler of the Chicago Cubs and was charged with a 6-5 loss. He then went on the disabled list at the end of the month with tendinitis in his right biceps and was reactivated on June 11th. Going back to a set-up man role, he pitched well after those early hiccups. He had a 3.63 ERA in 24 games, with a 2-1 record and 4 saves, when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 28th, accompanying SS Troy Tulowitzki. The Rockies received SS Jose Reyes and Ps Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco in the blockbuster deal.

In October of 2013, Hawkins was on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Santiago, Chile for a hunting trip, when he was asked by a stewardess for help in subduing an unruly passenger who was unhappy with his seat and threatening the on-board staff. Hawkins and his friends complied, quickly overpowering the passenger, but when he refused to calm down after he had regained his seat, the three had to pin the man down as the plane made an unscheduled landing in Lima, Peru, in order for him to be turned over to authorities. Once again, Hawkins had to help out in escorting the passenger out of the airplane, to ensure that he did not endanger staff or other passengers.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Jorge Arangure Jr.: "Passing Cy Young", Sports on Earth, USA Today, July 9, 2013. [1]
  • Terence Moore: "In 20th big league season, Hawkins never better: Rockies closer thriving in Coors Field after tough upbringing, rough start to career", mlb.com, July 17, 2014. [2]

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