LaTroy Hawkins Wants the Ball: Why Won't the Milwaukee Brewers Give It to Him?

Kenn HoekstraContributor IJune 22, 2011

LaTroy Hawkins is looking for a bigger role in Milwaukee's bullpen
LaTroy Hawkins is looking for a bigger role in Milwaukee's bullpenDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

LaTroy Hawkins wants the ball, but apparently the Milwaukee Brewers don't feel like giving it to him. A week after going to manager Ron Roenicke to request a bigger role in Milwaukee's bullpen, it has been business as usual for the 38-year-old veteran who continues to see limited action in relief.

"We're trying to find who's going to be that guy," Roenicke said last week following the meeting. "I thought it was going to be [Marco] Estrada for a while. He's struggled lately. [Tim] Dillard has probably thrown good enough to slip in there. Then 'Hawk,' with his numbers and how he's been doing, he's a guy that I think I should put in there also."

Since that statement by Roenicke, Hawkins has made just two appearances: a scoreless 8th in Boston with the Brewers trailing 12-3, and a scoreless 9th on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays with the Brewers trailing 8-3. With the majority of the Brewers bullpen struggling, it's a mystery why the rock-steady, fully healthy and obviously hungry Hawkins continues to be relegated to mop-up duty.

Hawkins has rebounded nicely following a forgettable, injury plagued 2010 campaign and is finishing out the final season of a 2-year, $7.5 million dollar contract he signed with the Brewers in 2009. 

Just how good has Hawkins been in 2011? Since giving up one earned run on April 22nd in
Houston, Hawkins has made 19 straight scoreless appearances and is currently sporting an impressive 0.47 ERA. 

The 17-year veteran has 10 strikeouts against four walks in 19.1 innings pitched on the year and has yet to surrender a home run. Hawkins struggled early in the season with his command, but has been improving steadily. He hasn't walked a batter in 10 straight outings.

In the wake of Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Miller Park, one has to wonder why Roenicke didn't turn the ball over to Hawkins in the 7th with the Brewers trailing by a single run. Down 3-2, the Brewers manager instead went with sidewinder Tim Dillard, who struggled, giving up three earned runs and allowing the Rays to stretch their lead to four. 

Tampa Bay ace David Price was nearly unhittable, finishing eight strong before turning the game over to closer Kyle Farnsworth in the 9th. Farnsworth was hit early, but managed to squash a late Brewers rally to preserve a 6-3 Rays victory.

Ironically, Dillard's struggles could end up making things even more confusing for Hawkins. After starting the season strong and giving up just two earned runs in his first seven relief outings, Dillard has now surrendered six earned runs in his last five appearances. 

It seems almost a given that Dillard will be sent to the minors to make room for setup man Takashi Saito. The veteran Saito is currently pitching a rehab assignment for AAA Nashville and is set to return to the active roster soon after missing most of the 2011 season with injuries.

With John Axford firmly entrenched in the closer's role and sinkerballer Kameron Loe regularly working
the 8th, Saito's return could mean even less playing time for Hawkins in a setup role. That's bad news for the Brewers and their fans, who certainly could have used Hawkins on the mound in the 7th inning today.