The Toronto Blue Jays received an underrated add-on to the Troy Tulowitzki deal late Monday night in the form of 42-year old reliever LaTroy Hawkins. The right-hander, who made his MLB debut way back in 1995, will likely slot in alongside Bo Shultz and see most of his work come around the seventh inning, setting the table for Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna.
After missing a month and a half of the season, including all of May, Hawkins has been in a groove in his 17 games since returning. In those 16.1 innings, Hawkins owns a 1.10 ERA and has walked just two batters. He has held opposing hitters to a .196 average.
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It’s safe to expect somewhere in the neighbourhood of 7.00 K/9 from the veteran, but the number that has surprised me the most is Hawkins’ velocity. This is no aging junkballer, rolling off-speed pitches to the plate late in his career. Instead, Hawkins throws his fastball nearly 80% of the time and averages a velocity of 93.0, right where it’s been for his entire career. He’ll also feature a seldom-used slider and changeup.
After entering the league as a 7th round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1991, Hawkins began his career as a starter. That experiment ended in 1999, where he was given a full season of 33 starts and produced a 6.66 ERA. Oh my.
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Since being moved into the bullpen, Hawkins has put up several dominant seasons. There have been bumps in the road as one would expect during a 20-year career, but the Blue Jays appear to be adding him during a fine stretch of play. His salary comes in at just $2.25 Million this season, leaving Toronto with very little financial commitment the rest of the way.
The next question we need to address is who takes the demotion for Hawkins. The first name that many will shout is Aaron Loup, who allowed the game-ending home run to the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. Loup’s season has gone awry, and may just be past the point of return, but I still feel that he can be better used as a lefty-specialist.
With Hendriks and Cecil representing some level of security, the focus has to shift to Ryan Tepera. Tepera seemed to just miss the cut when Steve Delabar was sent down in favor of Aaron Sanchez, and given his role, this may be his time. Then again, Tepera has posted a 1.17 ERA and .176 ERA since the beginning of June. Perhaps Loup shouldn’t get so comfortable.
The inclusion of Hawkins was a savvy move by Anthopoulos to better the pitching staff without having to pay a standalone price. His time in blue will likely be limited to the next two months, but as a steady presence, he could help to calm the waters.