Baker Laments Hawkins Trade

Some Cubs fans were happy to hear the team traded struggling relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins to San Francisco for pitchers Jerome Williams and David Aardsma on Saturday.

Hawkins blew 13 save opportunities since he came to the team in 2004, including two in the final week of the 2004 campaign when the Cubs were ousted from the wild-card picture. He was constantly booed at Wrigley Field.

"It's probably better for him," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the trade. "Much like (ex-Cubs closers Antonio) Alfonseca, Rick Aguilera, Mel Rojas...I saw those guys. It's tough down there (in the Cubs bullpen) when you're exposed down there and you have to hear the stuff. There were negative vibes everywhere. Those negative vibes don't help."

Hawkins was inked to a three-year deal before the 2004 campaign as a setup man but was put into the closer's role last June when Joe Borowski suffered a shoulder injury.

He was named the team's closer to open the 2005 season and temporarily lost the job to Chad Fox in late April. But Fox blew out his elbow and Hawkins got the job back until losing it again to Ryan Dempster in early May.

Hawkins struggled as a setup man after the demotion and the Cubs used him in mop-up or earlier-inning situations.

"Nobody here is happy to see him go," Baker said. "We were hoping he could get it together here. He didn't want to leave. He's probably one of the better teammates that most of us has had. He never had any alibis or excuses or pointed the finger at anybody. Hopefully some of the lessons that he learned and went through, some of the other guys can benefit from."

The Cubs hope the trade will benefit them this year. Williams, who won 10 games for the Giants last year, will spend some time in Triple-A Iowa and will likely come up in the near future because injuries to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have ravaged the rotation.

Williams had elbow surgery in August and missed most of spring training while he was spending time with his father, who underwent a liver transplant.

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