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Colorado Rockies once again turn to veteran LaTroy Hawkins to close games

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The 42-year-old Hawkins and fellow righty Adam Ottavino will anchor the back end of the Rockies bullpen in 2015.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Amid the myriad struggles throughout 2014 for the Rockies, the combination of LaTroy Hawkins and Adam Ottavino provided a decent amount of stability at the end of games. The team will be counting on them to do so again in 2015, and they will also be looking for a pair of lefties to bounce back from rough 2014 seasons.

The closer

There were some serious doubts when the Rockies signed LaTroy Hawkins to be their closer prior to the 2014 season, but many of the were assuaged with the solid performance Hawkins put together in his 20th big league season. Hawkins appeared in 57 games in 2014, finishing 48 of them and pitching 54 1/3 innings. He finished with a 3.31 ERA and 1.20 WHIP to go with 23 saves.

Hawkins struck out just 32 hitters in more than 50 innings, so it is clear that a big factor in Hawkins' success was his impressive ability to limit walks, issuing just 13 free passes all season. Hawkins has announced that the 2015 season will be his last, so the Rockies will be hoping for the 42-year-old Hawkins to repeat his solid 2014 campaign in his final year in the league.

The setup men

The primary setup man for Hawkins will likely be fellow right-hander Adam Ottavino. As a 28-year-old in 2014, Ottavino appeared in 75 games, pitching 65 innings with a 3.60 ERA, walking just 16 and striking out 70. That performance followed a 2013 season in which Ottavino pitched 78 1/3 innings with a 2.64 ERA, making him the Rockies' most reliable reliever over the past two years. If the ravages of age or injury take down Hawkins, it would likely be Ottavino that gets the first shot to replace him as Rockies closer.

Entering the 2014 season, the presumed closer-in-waiting for the Rockies was lefty Rex Brothers, who was coming off a 2013 season that saw him post a 1.74 ERA and save 19 games as a 25-year-old. However, things did not go as planned; the Hindenburg and the Titanic pale in comparison to the disaster that was Brothers' 2014 season. In 74 appearances last year, Brothers posted a 5.59 ERA in 56 1/3 innings, allowing 65 hits, seven of them home runs, while walking 39 and striking out 55. The good news for 2015 is that new bullpen coach Darren Holmes thinks he can fix whatever was wrong with Brothers last season. If he can do that and restore Brothers to the form he showed in his first three big league seasons, it will be a huge boost to the bullpen for 2015.

Brothers also wasn't the only southpaw in the Rockies' bullpen to struggle in 2014. After four strong seasons with the Yankees, Boone Logan signed a three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Rockies last winter. The first year of that deal was unfortunately a huge bust, as Logan made four trips to the disabled list and was limited to just 25 innings of work in which he posted an unsightly ERA of 6.84. Whether the struggles were because of injuries and a small sample size or something bigger will go a long way toward determining Logan's role in the bullpen in 2015.

MLB quality depth

The Rockies have brought a pair of non-roster invitees to spring training that have significant closing experience. Veteran righty John Axford has 116 career saves, most of which came with the Brewers, and he did save 10 games with Cleveland in 2014. Also of note is 40-year-old Rafael Betancourt, whose 57 saves in a Rockies uniform put him fifth on the club's all-time list. Betancourt was the Rockies' closer throughout 2012 and for a portion of 2013 before having Tommy John surgery.

Another interesting name that could find itself in the mix at the back end of the bullpen at some point in 2015 is Jairo Diaz. The 23-year-old who came from the Angels in a trade for Josh Rutledge made just five major league appearances in 2014, but struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings. He also struck out more than 13 batters per nine innings with a 2.20 ERA at AA Arkansas in 2014.

On the farm

It is hard to project late-inning relievers coming out of the minor leagues because so many of them at the big league level are converted starters (for example, Hawkins and Ottavino), but here are a look at a few guys in the upper minors that could plug a hole in the back end of the bullpen if need be.

One of the first names on that list would be Scott Oberg, the Rockies' 15th round pick in 2012. He has 61 saves in his minor league career, including 15 last season at AA Tulsa. The Rockies could also turn to a pair of newly-acquired arms in Jorge Rondon and Austin House, both of whom have impressive minor league numbers. Lefty Kraig Sitton could also be a late-inning bullpen option out of the minors.