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Hawkins lands on DL with shingles

Hawkins lands on DL with shingles

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CHICAGO -- Unable to sit and barely able to walk because of pain in his upper back, Astros relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Tuesday's game against the Cubs with a case of shingles.

Right-hander Doug Brocail, who has been on the disabled list since May 4 with a left hamstring strain, will be activated in time for Wednesday's game. Brocail was scheduled to make his fifth Minor League rehab appearance Tuesday at Double-A Corpus Christi, but will instead make his way to Chicago.

Hawkins, who underwent an MRI on Monday that showed no structural damage in his back, pitched two-thirds of an inning Monday night before being ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Everitt for arguing balls and strikes.

Hawkins says he can't sit down due to the pain.

"I have a new, profound respect for people with back pain," he said. "My wife has a bad back and I see her and her back locked up, and if you don't have that problem, you don't know if it's that bad. And I have a high tolerance for pain -- a very high tolerance -- and this is testing my tolerance."

Hawkins, who is 1-4 with a 2.32 ERA and 10 saves in 44 games this year, has been dealing with back pain since July 9. His wife discovered bumps on his back, and he was quickly diagnosed with shingles by team physician James Muntz.

Shingles is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash on one side of the body. The infection, which is caused by the chickenpox virus, usually occurs in children and older people. Hawkins hasn't sat down in the bullpen in days because of pain and has had trouble sleeping.

"The back pain is like the beginning of it, and then you get the shingles," he said. "I had the back pain probably a week. The first time I felt it was on [July 9], and then my wife saw bumps on my back and she started seeing the shingles. That was the Wednesday before I flew to L.A. [July 15]. In L.A., it gotg worse. I didn't sleep at all in L.A. I didn't know. I just thought I had a muscle spasm or something. I didn't know what it was. I didn't sleep at all."

Hawkins has done lots of research on shingles, becoming somewhat of an expert on the disease. What he doesn't know is how long he will be out of action.

"It could be two or three weeks, it can be six months, it could be a year," he said. "You just don't know because you can't. You really don't know."

Brocail has appeared in only seven games for the Astros this year, thanks to two trips to the disabled list. He made two rehab appearances at Triple-A Round Rock before making two of his scheduled four appearances at Double-A Corpus Christi.

"Doug has been throwing the ball good," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "He threw the ball well before he left to go on a rehab assignment. He had a couple of simulated [games] and some bullpen sessions. He threw the ball well and is a big part of what we did last year. We need him. He's healthy, and he can step right in and possibly take Hawk's spot."

Hawkins has been serving as Cooper's setup man, a role that Brocail occupied for much of the 2008 season.

"Hopefully, I can get [Brocail] in a game where it's not as pressurized and get him an inning or so under his belt, so we'll kind of mix and match, possibly in the seventh or eight inning to get the situation lined up," Cooper said.

Hawkins, meanwhile, stood by his postgame comments from Monday that were critical of Everitt. Hawkins said after the game that Everitt had made up his mind who was going to win, but Hawkins wasn't worried about possibly getting fined.

"I stand by what I said," he said. "They can fine me, but I'll fight it," said Hawkins. Major League Baseball is considering disciplinary action against Hawkins, The Chicago Tribune reported.

"It's under investigation [by MLB], and we have no comment," Everitt told the Tribune before Tuesday's game.

"I have my own opinion, and he had his opinion," Hawkins said. "He thought I was showing him up. I saw (Alex Rodriguez) do way worse (when I was in the American League). He undressed the umpire. Whatever he said, it was in his face. It's America, dude."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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