Hawkins earns save as temporary closer

Rockies veteran happy to fill in while his friend takes care of family

Hawkins earns save as temporary closer

OAKLAND -- LaTroy Hawkins did the assigned job -- closing the Rockies' 2-1 victory over the Athletics on Tuesday night -- and handled the requisite interviews like a good-natured statesmen. Then he got down to what's real.

Hawkins was in his first ninth-inning save chance since April 12 because regular Rockies closer John Axford was away with an undisclosed family matter. Axford has been dealing with the aftermath of his son being bitten by a rattlesnake during Spring Training. Manager Walt Weiss said Axford's son was doing well, but Axford needed to be home.

Axford placed on inactive list

Hawkins, who at 42 threw consistently at 94-95 mph, showed he could pick up the inning on the mound for Axford -- a onetime teammate with the Brewers, and a guy Hawkins helped recruit to the Rockies. But he wanted to make sure he was there for Axford, as a friend.

"It's still amazing to me that he was able to do what he's been doing with what's going on with his family, with his son," Hawkins said. "That right there. … He's my hero. A lot of people can't do that, go out and perform, knowing your son is in the hospital and back from the hospital.

"He's a special dude. I'm going to text him in a second, just let him know that if he needs to talk, I'm here, and to just let him know we're thinking about him."

In the grand scheme, just being there for a friend was way bigger than protecting a lead. But Hawkins handled the baseball part nicely.

Weiss called in Hawkins on Thursday afternoon to tell him he would be closer. Younger pitchers Tommy Kahnle, who pitched the eighth and gave up a run, and Scott Oberg were options.

Hawkins began the year as the Rockies' closer but blew two of his first three opportunities. It turned out Hawkins was pitching through right biceps tendinitis, which ended up costing him seven weeks. In nine games since his return, Hawkins has a 1.17 ERA. Just one of the first eight was in a win, but Weiss knew whom to trust Tuesday.

"Experience," Weiss said in explaining his decision. "He's done it a lot, he's thrown the ball well since he's come back."

Boone Logan was up in the bullpen in case the Athletics had a chance to win the game with one of their lefty power hitters, Josh Reddick or Ike Davis. Athletics manager Bob Melvin led off the ninth with Reddick, who grounded out, then Hawkins worked a popup from Mark Canha and a lineout from Marcus Semien.

It was Hawkins' 126th career save. But for him it was merely a completed task.

"Whether I'm pitching in the sixth inning or seventh inning, I try to do my job," Hawkins said. "Sometimes it's passing the baton to the next guy and sometimes the guy is passing it to me."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.