Despite painful comebacker, Mets' LaTroy Hawkins won't wear protective cup

LaTroy Hawkins of the Mets catches a ground

LaTroy Hawkins of the Mets catches a ground ball for the final out in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. (Aug. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Mike Stobe

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SAN DIEGO - Nearly two hours had passed since LaTroy Hawkins was struck in the groin by a Jerry Hairston Jr. comebacker.

Yet he could barely shuffle around the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. And when it came time to leave after Wednesday night's loss to the Dodgers, the veteran reliever needed a golf cart to take him to the team bus because each movement proved too agonizing.

Things hardly improved once onboard.

"It seemed like the bus driver hit every bump he could find," Hawkins said Thursday, when it still hurt to laugh. "Once we got out of there, it was fine. It was smooth sailing. But I iced all the way."

Yet, through all that torture, Hawkins remained resolute about his refusal to wear a protective cup on the pitcher's mound. "I never have, I never will," said Hawkins, the 40-year-old veteran of 19 big league seasons. "I tried it a couple of times in the minor leagues. It wasn't comfortable. I've thrown a lot of innings. I've been in a lot of ballgames. That's the first time I got hit. So, it won't change."

No player on the field must stand closer to the batter than the pitcher. And many veteran pitchers don't have problems recalling an incident in which a fellow hurler was caught without protection, as Hawkins was against the Dodgers.

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Yet, at least in the Mets' clubhouse, pitchers place more importance on comfort than they do protection. "It's probably stupid," said Dillon Gee, who couldn't remember the last time he pitched while wearing a cup. "But we're all such creatures of habit and we're all so used to pitching without one."

By Gee's estimation, no member of the rotation chooses to wear a cup, despite standing a mere 60-feet, 6-inches away from the batter. "I can almost guarantee you there's more that don't wear them than do," Gee said. "That's where my money would be."

On Wednesday night, rookie Zack Wheeler stood within earshot of Hawkins as he described, sometimes in vivid detail, the damage that Hairston's comebacker had done. He winced more than once.

Yet, when he took the mound Thursday night against the Padres, he did so without a cup.

Wheeler stopped wearing a cup when he began playing pro ball, which wasn't an uncommon progression among those in the Mets clubhouse.Scott Rice had gone years without wearing a cup, though he became a convert recently. It helps, he said, that more flexible material is now made to use some protective cups with much more give than old hard plastic models. Still, the lefthander realized he's probably in the minority. "I'd say most pitchers don't," Rice said. "Which is crazy."

But according to Hawkins, not surprising. While social media lit up with surprise that Hawkins pitched without a cup, the veteran said those in the pitching fraternity were not shocked.

"It's like somebody saying 'oh, he got hit in the head, why don't you wear helmets?' No, we're not going to wear helmets," said Hawkins, who doubted his own availability Thursday night. "How often does that happen? It doesn't happen very often."

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