Giants acquire setup man Hawkins

Giants acquire setup man Hawkins

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved to shore up their bullpen at a crucial juncture of the season Saturday by acquiring reliever LaTroy Hawkins and cash from the Chicago Cubs for two of their younger pitchers, right-handers Jerome Williams and David Aardsma.

The move may not be the last in the next 24 hours as Giants executives determine how to restructure the bullpen, which has been in chaos since closer Armando Benitez tore tendons in his right hamstring last month, general manager Brian Sabean said.

"We're in desperate need to remake the bullpen," Sabean said hours before the Giants played the first-place Padres at SBC Park. "The more we watched our games, home or on the road, we have a very difficult time stabilizing the game when we need to. This sends a message to the position players that we're serious about straightening this thing out.

"It also sends a message to the bullpen, although there's going to be some changes because of this, because when he reports on Sunday, somebody is going to have to go. We may not be done rearranging this thing."

Hawkins, 31, had been used in part as a closer for the Cubs in the absence of the injured Joe Borowski, but he will be back in his more accustomed role as a setup man for Giants closer Tyler Walker, who has recorded six saves since May 12.

Hawkins converted four saves in eight opportunities with a 1-4 record and 3.32 ERA in 21 games for Chicago and never seemed to fit into that closer role.

"I was never uncomfortable with it," Hawkins said. "I wasn't surprised about the move, either. It's part of the business. There's been a lot of speculation about it for two weeks now. All you guys [the media] have been talking about it."

About coming to San Francisco, Hawkins said he welcomes the change.

"I'm excited," he said. "Very excited. Very, very excited."

As the primary setup man for the Twins in 2002 and 2003, Hawkins had a 15-3 record with 41 holds and a 2.00 ERA as Minnesota won the American League Central both seasons. Sabean and Giants manager Felipe Alou are hoping that Hawkins returns to that form.

"We followed [Hawkins] the better part of May. We still like his stuff. We think he needs a change of scenery and will fit nicely in that hole for the seventh and/or eighth innings," Sabean said.

"I think this will be a lot more relaxed environment for him," Alou said. "This is as relaxed an environment as anybody could be in. He's an awesome seventh- and eighth-inning pitcher. And that's how we'll use him."

Williams, 23, was sent from the Major Leagues to Triple-A Fresno on April 25 but continued to struggle in the Pacific Coast League, where he was 1-4 with a 9.36 ERA in six starts for the Grizzlies. He'll go back to Triple-A for the time being in the Cubs organization.

Aardsma, also 23, was at Double-A Norwich, where the Giants had converted him into a starter for the purpose of adding more pitches to his repertoire. Aardsma is primarily a fastball pitcher.

Sabean conceded that he was trading pieces of the club's future to try to make a correction now. As the Memorial Day weekend opened, the 23-24 Giants were 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Padres in the National League West and may be at the breaking point.

"It's the price of doing business," Sabean said about having to trade the two young pitchers. "You take a step backward. Maybe Jerome can get his stuff together in another organization. Money was very important. We're going to wind up paying less than $1 million on the whole thing, and that gives us flexibility to do some more things up the line.

"Obviously we're in a negative leverage situation. With Benitez hurt, teams come in and assess the situation. It's one of those things we're going to have to live with. Hopefully, LaTroy comes in and fills the void."

Financially, the Giants are getting about $2 million from the Cubs to offset the $3 million remaining on Hawkins' $4.35 million base salary for the rest of the season. Hawkins has his own option to exercise for next year at a base of $4.35 million. That figure can escalate higher because of bonuses that are attached to performance this season.

Sabean, who built the team to win this year around the expected run of nearly 41-year-old Barry Bonds at the all-time home run record, recognizes that the season is on the brink. Already, it has been filled with worst-case scenarios, with injuries befalling almost all of the team's veteran players.

Bonds hasn't played an inning and is still recovering from three surgeries on his right knee since Jan. 31 and there is no target for his return. Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Jason Schmidt have all spent two-week periods on the disabled list. Benitez went down April 26 at SBC Park, ripping up his leg while covering first base on a game-ending play against the Padres.

The bullpen hasn't been right since then, as Alou and pitching coach Dave Righetti have tried a number of combinations. The hope is that the 11-year veteran Hawkins will be a stabilizing force.

"The Benitez thing was a shock," Sabean said. "We took a huge step backwards. I think we've regrouped with Walker taking over, but again, we've had the hardest time seemingly trying to find folks who can pitch an inning or can be slotted. That's hopefully what LaTroy can do -- give us some sanity. It's been a credit to Felipe and Rags [Righetti] how they've juggled it. At this point, there's no system. There's no method to our madness."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.