Number 21 returns to the field

While Morgan Ensberg couldn’t stand the heat he got for picking out Paul O’Neill’s former number, the long-dormant 21 will return to the field this week if the Yanks ever get to begin their season. LaTroy Hawkins, in an effort to honor Roberto Clemente, will don 21 this year, and Bryan Hoch traces the feelings surrounding O’Neill’s number. It will be interesting to see how Hawkins is received for taking what many Yankee fans believe is a number that belongs in the Yankee Pantheon. Hawkins has previously worn 32 and donned 22 with the Yanks in Spring Training. He grew tired of having Brian Bruney call him “Roger.” Doesn’t that sound endearing?

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LaTroy Hawkins Day

Tyler Kepner in The Times and Mark Feinsand in the Daily News both tackle LaTroy Hawkins today. The Yanks’ latest veteran addition to the bullpen is impressing his bosses during the early days of Spring Training. Hawkins is a vital piece in the bullpen this season; if he can turn in some consistency from the set-up role, Joba would be free to move to the starting rotation.

Anatomy of an effective bullpen

In 2007, the Padres and the Red Sox topped their respective leagues in bullpen ERA and batting average against. Thing is, entering the season, neither team had much to boast about in that department. In fact, the Sox pen was in such shambles that Jonathan Papelbon told Tony Francona that he wanted to move back to the closer role (or at least that’s how Boston tells the story). So how did these two teams come out ahead?

Skilled closer

Obviously, the first step in building a bullpen is creating a viable endgame. Both Trevor Hoffman and Jonathan Papelbon qualify as such. They keep things relatively stable at the end — Papelbon more than Hoffman, though, as he blew just three saves last year (and we remember a couple of ‘em), while Hoffman was the goat in seven games, including the most important one for the Padres.

There’s not much else to say about this. We have it in Mo, who I think we all can agree is better than Hoffman at this stage of his career.
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Building a bullpen one LaTroy at a time

The Yankees, according to Ken Rosenthal, are close to a one-year, $3.75 million deal with LaTroy Hawkins. This move bores me. On the one hand, it’s a one-year deal for not very much money. On the other, Hawkins has seen his K/9 IP decline over the last five seasons (with a slight uptick last year), and just like every other Yankee reliever, he puts on more than a baserunner per inning. Is a 35-year-old really a bullpen upgrade?