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Archive for Friday, October 19, 2007

Journeyman relievers thriving in Colorado

October 19, 2007

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— LaTroy Hawkins was searching for the perfect fit last winter, while Matt Herges was looking for any fit at all.

Two journeyman relievers, both foraging for new teams - anyone willing to take a chance on their right arms. The Rockies took them in, and are awfully glad they did.

Now, they've helped take Colorado to its first World Series appearance. Herges and Hawkins have provided a fantastic front end to a brilliant bullpen, combining for 6 2-3 scoreless innings in the Rockies' unblemished postseason run.

"This is incredible," Herges said. "I'm hearing from people I haven't heard from in a long time."

Eight months ago, Herges thought his baseball career might be over. No one was calling with offers, and he was making plans for another line of work, possibly even in the broadcasting field.

He sat in front of his locker this week, sifting through a goody bag full of trinkets from Nike, the spoils of this surprising success.

"There's 1,000 shirts in here, and shoes," the 37-year-old reliever said. "It's kind of like Christmas."

Herges has pitched in four of the Rockies' seven playoff games, giving up just one hit in 3 2-3 innings. He earned the win in the clincher over Arizona in the NL championship series.

Not bad for someone who had to beg the Rockies for an invitation to spring training. He's still puzzled over why no team wanted to give him a shot. He was coming off a 2006 campaign with Florida in which he was 2-3 with a 4.31 ERA.

"I had an OK year, not great by any means, but not horrible," Herges said. "I think that should be enough to get a job with somebody and it wasn't."

Herges felt like the train with the square wheels on the Island of Misfit Toys in "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the long-running Christmas television special.

That would make Hawkins the cowboy riding the ostrich. They were there on the island along with the squirt gun that squirted jelly, the polka dot elephant and the Charlie-in-the-Box, and nobody likes a Charlie-in-the-box, remember?

"That's a good analogy. That's how I felt," Herges said with a laugh. "I felt like I was on that island and didn't know why."

Herges was especially stumped why a guy like Hawkins was there with him.

"He's been a premier setup guy his whole career. I'm trying to eke by," Herges said. "He's on the next level in terms of talent. When he was a free agent, there were 15 to 20 teams calling him. When I was a free agent, no one was calling me."

Just like those misfit toys.

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