Hawkins hoping he can hold up for post-season

Blue Jays pitcher LaTroy Hawkins recounts some of his most memorable moments in the MLB, including David Wells’ perfect game in 1998.

TORONTO — The day after LaTroy Hawkins made his return to the mound following nine days without pitching because of forearm soreness, the Toronto Blue Jays reliever reported for duty Monday feeling good, but not great.

At 42, with 1,039 games in the big-leagues and 1,465 innings logged on his right arm, he understands that feeling great after work isn’t going to happen for him. The goal at this point is to limit his work right now so he can feel well enough to be available pitch when it matters most, ideally the post-season.

“That’s our thought process – save some bullets for the right situation,” says Hawkins. “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 looked good throwing a clean ninth Sunday against the Boston Red Sox, his first action since Sept. 11, when he allowed three runs, two earned, in two-thirds of an inning. He also allowed a run in an inning of work against Baltimore on Sept. 6, his only other action this month.

From July 28, when he was acquired, to Aug. 31 manager John Gibbons used him 12 times, quickly becoming a go-to arm in the bullpen. But the pain in his forearm, which landed him on the DL earlier this season with the Colorado Rockies, kept getting worse and worse.

“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.”

Hawkins plans to retire at season’s end, but he can still bring some heat, averaging nearly 94 mph on his fastball. He was right there with his sinker on Sunday, when he was feeling good.

He hopes to stay there.

“If I feel like this I’ll be fine,” says Hawkins. “But if I start to get to that point again, my command goes because I can’t finish. You’re trying to get out in front (of the ball) but you can’t get through that last little bit at the end where you get your velocity and command.”

Hawkins has been to the post-season four times, advancing to the World Series in 2007 with the Colorado Rockies, and Gibbons values his calmness under duress on the mound. The Blue Jays may be faced with a tough choice when shaping their post-season roster if his forearm issues continue.

“When I’m feeling good like that I can get away with mistakes,” he says. “When I’m not feeling good, I have to be perfect. I used to be able to pitch when I didn’t feel good – not so much anymore, just being able to recuperate, bouncing back, because of what I had going on. …

“Nine days of rest definitely helped. Felt pretty good, don’t know if I’m ever going to feel great just because you get to the point where you have to push through it. Hopefully those nine days gave me a good rest so I’ll be able to push through it.”

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