Former Yankees and Mets pitcher LaTroy Hawkins has advice for pitchers on how to deal with uncertainty

Andres Chavez
September 6 2015: Toronto Blue Jays Relief Pitcher LaTroy Hawkins (32) [468] pitches in the fifth inning of Blue Jays 10 – 4 victory over Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON Canada. (Photo by Peter Llewellyn/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The current coronavirus outbreak forced MLB to suspend the start of the season, and as of now, there is no timetable for baseball to return. It won’t be before mid-May, and that is looking highly unlikely. For pitchers, the uncertainty provides a difficult thing to navigate given that they won’t know when the league will start, but former Yankees and Mets pitcher LaTroy Hawkins has some interesting pieces of advice.

Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News interviewed the decorated pitcher, retired in 2015 after 21 seasons in the big show. He dealt with the uncertainty of Major League Baseball’s 1994 and 1995 strike when his career was starting and he was in his early twenties.

“I remember everything being so uncertain,” Hawkins recalled to Ackert. “So that was the toughest part, not knowing when it was going to be over. I didn’t know how much should I prepare. Should I prepare to the point where I’m game ready, which is impossible for me mentally. I think I was getting ready, but trying to keep my bullets and then try to ramp up when they said that we’re getting close.

“It was hard to know what to do,” he said.

The former Yankees and Mets reliever knows what he’s talking about

This year, the scenario is similar, but not quite the same. Either way, it is affecting pitchers greatly, because they are creatures of habits and routines, and this is disrupting their usual routine in the worst possible way: not knowing when they will take the field.

Hawkins, who played for the Yankees back in 2008 and with the Mets in 2013, is now a special assistant to the Twins, where he spent most of his career. His best suggestion for hurlers? Maintain your physical and mental health and keep the arm moving in some way.

“I think the key for those guys is trying to stay in shape, physically, not so much building up or maintaining where they were with their arm. Unless you’ve got a brother or cousin or somebody that you could really throw it and catch a really good fastball and catch all your pitches, it’s not going to help,” Hawkins said. “I just think physically staying in shape and keeping your arm moving. Just doing something to keep your arm moving. I’ve seen guys buy nets and play catch and throw into the net, that’s fine. So that’s possible to be done and can keep the arm loose. But most importantly, you have to stay physically and mentally in shape. You can’t really be locked in, because you don’t know when it’s going to be over.“

His stint with the Yankees (5.71 ERA in 41 innings) didn’t go quite as well as the one with the Mets, where he had a 2.93 ERA in 70.2 frames.