CHICAGO | LaTroy Hawkins put his arm this year where his mouth was in 2012.
Last season, the Gary native and reliever with the Los Angeles Angels said he’d keep pitching past 40 as long as health allowed.
“If I don’t get injured, why wouldn’t I play?” West Side alum Hawkins said. “I look at it like this: I’ll be out of this game a lot longer than I’m in it.”
Keeping his vow after his 40th birthday Dec. 21, Hawkins this season is toiling for the New York Mets, his 10th team. He may run out of time, though, before he can at least match the big-league all-time record of 13 teams logged by Detroit Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel.
Hawkins, though, has had a longer run than Dotel. He made his debut in 1995 with the Minnesota Twins, four years prior to Dotel’s first game, also with the Mets.
Hawkins spent his first nine seasons with the Twins, then started his coast-to-coast baseball journey with an ill-fated free-agent contract with the Cubs in 2004.
He can still pitch as a setup man. Hawkins gave up two earned runs in his first 11 2/3 innings (1.54 ERA).
Between his 35th and 40th birthdays, Hawkins had a 3.38 ERA in 240 games with four different teams.
A former prep basketball star, Hawkins keeps himself in great shape. He recently talked about proper nutrition at a New York high school.
"I grew up in a neighborhood that was inner-city,” he told MLB.com. “We didn't have much. I always said if I had a chance to get out of my neighborhood and make some money, I would always give back whether it was money or time. I think time is more important than money in most occasions."
Shark’s endorsement from an ol’ lefty: Valparaiso’s Jeff Samardzija has not won since Opening Day, but he’s still impressing those who have stood in his shoes at Wrigley Field.
Latest praise for “Shark” came from Dick Ellsworth, the last Cubs lefty to have won 20 or more games. Ellsworth’s 22-victory feat in 1963 included a 2.11 ERA, lowest by a Cubs starter since World War II.
“I like what I see,” said Ellsworth, 73, a co-owner of the Fresno (Calif.) Grizzlies, the Giants’ Triple-A team. “He’s got great movement on his fastball. I’m astounded at the movement he does have because of the high velocity he throws at.
“He’s got a great future. I hope he takes care of himself. He’s fun to watch.”
Bootcheck off to fast start: LaPorte native Chris Bootcheck apparently made a good decision to sign as a starter with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the New York Yankees’ top farm club.
After giving up three runs in six innings against Gwinnett Friday, Bootcheck was 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA in six games (24 hits with just one homer given up in 36 innings). He had given up no runs in three of his six appearances.
The list: Cubs 20-game winners after Ellsworth: Larry Jackson, 24 in 1964; Fergie Jenkins, six straight 20-win seasons, 1967-72; Rick Reuschel, 20 in 1977; Greg Maddux, 20 in 1992, and Jon Lieber, 20 in 2001.