Ever since Bobby Parnell went down a couple of weeks ago to a neck injury, the New York Mets have been looking for a guy to close out games. When Parnell went down, he had been able to save 22 games for the Mets. Now with the injury, the team had to try and fill the void. The team had tried a few different guys at closer, from Pedro Feliciano to David Aardsma. Nothing really seemed to work. That was until LaTroy Hawkins had entered the picture. And this was coming from a guy who has little experience closing games during his career.
Sure, Aardsma has closed games before, but he hasn’t saved a game since 2010. As we saw two weeks ago, the trial run with Aasrdsma as the closer didn’t work out well at all. With Hawkins, he has closed games for the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, and did so with a touch of regularity, The only surprising thing is that Hawkins hasn’t held a regular closer job since he was with the Cubs in 2004. Aside from the occasional closer role during his career, Hawkins has been used as a late inning reliever.
Now that he’s been given the role of closer, for the moment, Hawkins has done a good job of shutting the door. Sure, he has had trouble keeping runs off the board during the course of the season. That happens to every relief pitcher. No pitcher is going to be perfect. Yes, there are times this year Hawkins hasn’t been able to get an out to save his life on the mound. Ever since the All Star break, Hawkins seems to be more on point with his pitches. Hawkins has done a great job of keeping hitters off balance for the last month and a half. It has made him a better pitcher as of late.
As far as closing games goes, it has seemed that Hawkins hasn’t had as much pressure on him as he had pitching in earlier innings. He seems almost to thrive more in the ninth inning with the game on the line. Some pitchers just pitch better that way, and Hawkins happens to be one of those guys. He has seemed like a different pitcher as of late. Hawkins seems more focused, having better control and command of his pitches since taking on the role of closer. Hawkins has been thriving as the man on the mound with the game on the line. For a guy who’s still pitching after 18 years in the league, and at age 40 no less, its still an impressive site to see.
Hawkins may have finally found himself a perfect role with this Mets team.