Blue Jays reliever LaTroy Hawkins has jerseys from eleven major league teams, but no World Series ring. In his finals season before retirement at 42 years old, he’s hoping to change that with the Blue Jays, but he may be battling his body. As Shi Davidi of Sportsnet writes, Hawkins has been held back recently to save his arm for the playoffs.
Sunday marked Hawkins’ first trip to the mound in nine days after the righty had experienced some forearm soreness in prior outings. He noted in interviews, however, that he isn’t all the way back in terms of throwing his slider, which puts the greatest strain on that part of his arm. Now, the Jays are left to balance Hawkins’ fatigue while still keeping him sharp.
“That’s our thought process – save some bullets for the right situation,” Hawkins told Davidi. “If we didn’t have guys up for September, I’d push through it. But since we have guys, it’s the perfect time to rest.”
Hawkins admits that the forearm discomfort had been bothering him since the same injury landed him on the DL as a member of the Colorado Rockies. He’s been working around it up until this point, but is there enough time for the Blue Jays to get Hawkins to a point where he can pitch consistently in the playoffs? Besides, after coming over from the Rockies, he quickly became a go-to for John Gibbons.
“It was always there, but I was managing it,” he says. “Those days of rest, I just needed them. When I was younger I was able to go out there four out of five, six out of nine. That’s not in my DNA anymore. That’s when you know it’s that time.”
Some refreshing honesty, but something to monitor if you’re the Blue Jays. Hawkins explains to Davidi that he’s able to make in-game adjustments with ease when he’s feeling stronger, but when this forearm flares up, he feels a need to be perfect. “I used to be able to pitch when I didn’t feel good – not so much anymore,” Hawkins says, but having that wiggle room will be critical for him in October.
Expanded rosters certainly give the Jays an opportunity to limit his workload, but this could be a quiet conversation come playoff time. Not in terms of Hawkins’ roster spot, necessarily, but in terms of putting insurance around him. This could push Mark Lowe into some much-deserved situations, or slide Liam Hendriks one rung up the ladder when necessary. Therein lies the value of depth in a bullpen that has quickly become one of the best in baseball.