Hawkins, Rockies close to contract

Hawkins, Rockies close to contract

DENVER -- Veteran right-handed relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins heard so much about the improving Rockies from his workout partners that he wants to be a part of the team.

Hawkins acknowledged on Friday he hopes to visit Denver next week and complete his signing with the club. Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said talks would not be complete by the end of the day on Friday and declined further comment. The Rocky Mountain News reported the contract offer is for one year and $3.5 million.

But Hawkins, who has 75 saves and a 4.75 ERA over 12 seasons, said living in the Dallas area and going through an offseason program with pitcher Jason Jennings and outfielder Choo Freeman led him to decide on a future with the Rockies.

Especially, Hawkins said, talks with fellow hurler Jennings, Colorado's No. 1 starter, helped him form a favorable impression of the Rockies. Hawkins will be the primary setup man and will close games when the Rockies want to give regular closer Brian Fuentes a break.

"I know they expressed a lot of interest in me at the trading deadline last year, and from talking with those guys, I knew they had a good, young team," said Hawkins, who went 3-2 with 12 saves and a 4.48 ERA in 60 relief appearances with the Orioles in 2006.

"They've got a team that's on the verge of putting things together," he added. "I remember facing them when I was in San Francisco, and they have a lot of young talent. They were in the playoff hunt until late in the year last year, and they remind me of the team we had when I was coming up with the Twins.

"The thing that impresses me, and it's what Jason talked about, is they play defense. That's what the Twins did -- pitch and play defense. Jason was a big factor in my decision."

The Rockies like having a veteran in a setup role. Hawkins, who will turn 34 on Dec. 16, will take the role occupied last season by Jose Mesa, whom the Rockies still would like to re-sign and use earlier in games.

Hawkins, who faced the Rockies while pitching for the Giants late in the 2005 season, has one save and a 5.40 ERA in four relief appearances covering 3 1/3 innings at Coors Field.

"That ballpark has played better for the pitchers the last couple of years," Hawkins said. "That's not a factor. I've pitched in Wrigley Field, jeez. Camden Yards is not exactly a graveyard for hitters -- the ball goes out. If I keep the ball down, I'll be fine."

Arbitration decisions: Also on Friday, the Rockies decided not to offer arbitration to any of their free agents, although they will continue to try to re-sign Mesa, right-handed reliever Mike DeJean and left-handed reliever Tom Martin.

Mesa was the only one who could have brought the Rockies draft-pick compensation had he been offered arbitration but later decided to sign with another team. As a Type B free agent, the Rockies would have received a "sandwich" pick (between the first and second rounds) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.