Hawkins taking final Spring Training in stride

Hawkins taking final Spring Training in stride

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-handed closer LaTroy Hawkins has experienced almost everything Spring Training has to offer. After all, Saturday's first workout of Rockies pitchers and catchers began his 24th professional spring and 21st Major League camp.

But knowing it's his last? That's a new one for Hawkins, 42, who has said he will retire at the end of the season.

"I have to think about that," said Hawkins, who converted 23 of 26 save opportunities last season. "Do I forget about this year being the finish line, or think of it as a finale? I don't know. I don't know how it's going to affect me. I'll just continue to think about the year the way I've been thinking.

"But a lot of the cities I go to, it'll be the last time I go there as a player. I will try to keep that in mind."

Hawkins is closing games because his arm is much younger than his birth certificate says. According to Pitchf/x data, Hawkins' 93.1 mph average on his four-seam fastball last season was not much below his 94.6 mph average in 2007, when he was part of the Rockies' bullpen during a run to the World Series. His 93.3 mph two-seamer in 2014 was faster than in any of the previous five seasons. A 2010 surgery to repair a torn labrum by the late Dr. Lewis A. Yocum, who died in 2013 after battling cancer, gave Hawkins' arm new life.

"If my body felt like my arm feels now. … My body feels terrible, but my arm feels amazing," Hawkins said. "Thank you, Dr. Yocum."

Righty reliever John Axford, Hawkins' teammate a few years back with the Brewers, said younger relievers can learn about arm and body care from Hawkins, but the way Hawkins handles peaks and valleys, yet stays relaxed, is more impressive.

"It's the way he treats people, how professional he is, plus he knows how to have fun -- he knows when it's time to enjoy this game, but he knows when it's time to get down to business," said Axford, a non-roster invitee who is expected to give the bullpen a veteran lift. "You don't survive as a reliever as long as LaTroy did if you can't let go of some things, and go about your business the right way all the time."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.