It's a thirty job: Hawkins has a save vs. every team
Veteran reliever becomes 13th to close out each franchise
TORONTO -- LaTroy Hawkins has been doing this for 21 years and even if his career is coming to a close at the end of the year, he is going out in style. He still throws as hard as ever, and on Wednesday night Hawkins became the 13th pitcher in MLB history to record a save against all 30 franchises in the league (with the Expos and Nationals counted as one).
Hawkins tossed a scoreless ninth inning to put the finishing touches on the Blue Jays' 9-7 victory over the Twins at Rogers Centre. It was his first save in a Toronto uniform and it just so happened to come against the organization that drafted him back in 1991.
The 42-year-old veteran joins an impressive group that also includes: Rick Aguilera, Armando Benitez, Brian Fuentes, Kevin Gregg, Jason Isringhausen, Jose Mesa, Jonathan Papelbon, Rafael Soriano, Huston Street, Ugueth Urbina, Jose Valverde and Bob Wickman.
"I had never thought about it until yesterday," Hawkins admitted. "[Mark] Lowe said something to me about it, making a joke in the bullpen. I'm like, 'Really? Well, I probably won't have a chance to get that.'
"Then when [pitching coach Pete] Walker told me I had a chance, that I was closing tonight, I'm like, 'Oh, OK, cool.' And the game started to unfold, opportunity presented itself."
The fact that Hawkins made history against the Twins put a unique spin on this remarkable story. He was drafted by Minnesota and made his debut at the age of 22. At the time, he was a promising, hard-throwing starter who appeared to have a bright future but his career in the rotation never really panned out.
Hawkins tossed at least 100 innings from 1997-99 but the results were mixed. It wasn't until he transitioned to a full-time reliever in 2000 that his career really began to take off. He compiled an impressive 3.32 career ERA out of the bullpen compared to a 6.11 ERA in 98 starts and has turned into one of the game's more reliable relievers over the past 15 years.
The native of Indiana recorded the save while former Twins teammates Paul Molitor and Torii Hunter watched from the opposing dugout. In a lot of ways, Hawkins' career has come full circle.
"At his peak, he was probably throwing 95, and he hasn't lost much," said Molitor, who played alongside Hawkins from 1996-98. "He's learned to cut the ball a little bit, do some things to make up for the velocity. As a starter, he was a young kid, and the game would speed up and he couldn't hold runners. But he's been able to overcome a lot along the way."
Hawkins also became the oldest pitcher in Toronto franchise history to record a save. The previous record belonged to lefty Darren Oliver, who picked up a save during the 2012 season at the age of 41. Of the 11 teams Hawkins has played for during his career, he has at least one save with all of them except for the Yankees, Orioles and Brewers.
Hawkins was acquired from the Rockies as part of last week's trade for Troy Tulowitzki and while he'll mostly be limited to set-up duties, an exception was made for Wednesday night's game. With right-hander Aaron Sanchez serving a three-game suspension and closer Roberto Osuna needing a day off, the opportunity went to Hawkins.
"I think it helps when you have a deep bullpen," said Hawkins, who combined with Liam Hendriks, Brett Cecil and Lowe to toss four scoreless innings Wednesday night. "You can put guys in different situations that they've actually done before and not put them in situations where everything is going to be new to them.
"I've pitched in every inning before and Lowe's done the same thing. So I think it's a manager's dream when you've got a deep bullpen because you've got options."