So What's Up With Pirates Tony Watson?

Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Tony Watson has me concerned.  Watson is a reliever that really appears like he would be best used in left-on-left matchups.  But Clint Hurdle continued to give him more and more time against right-handed hitters last year.  Of course, it wasn’t like Hurdle had many options.

Last night, allowing Watson to pitch to Brandon Phillips proved to be a mistake.  One that didn’t cost the Bucs the game, because Andrew McCutchen came to Clint Hurdle’s rescue with a solo bomb.  But is Hurdle operating with a full 25-man roster right now is the bigger question.

The blast by Cutch gave the Pirates a one-run lead over the Reds, and thanks to Mark Melancon and some precarious work from Jason Grilli, it actually gave Watson a victory.   One that he certainly won’t be saving his jersey or the ball from the final out of the inning to remember it.  The outing was one that Watson hopes to soon forget.

Watson typically sits low-90’s with his heater, the slider is in the mid-80’s and he mixes in a change that is also in the mid-80’s.   It all works for him too, well at least the changeup worked last season.  We haven’t seen it utilized much, if at all, in 2013.

The 6’5″ southpaw was able to increase his groundball rate to 42 percent last season while punching out nearly nine batters per nine innings pitched.  The 220 pounder struckout 53 in his age 27 season in 2012.  Watson will turn 28 in May and should be busting out for the Bucs.

But we just don’t feel it as of yet.

Something doesn’t seem quite right when we watched Watson pitch this spring.   A lot of his time was spent working on ‘things’ this year in Bradenton.  After giving up four runs while getting only two Boston Red Sox batters out on February 28, Watson began working exclusively on the side and didn’t see much action until late in Spring Training.

In ths interview with Jim Colony,   Watson addressed the issue:

“Just throwing some bullpens on the side……Everything feels great, hopefully we’ll get going and get on the right track heading up north.”

Since coming north, Watson has appeared in four games and pitched 4.2 innings.  The lefty has given up three hits, three runs, and three walks while getting four punchouts.  He was credited with giving up a run against the Diamondbacks.  The Reds got two last night courtesy of the Cadillac’n Brandon Phillips bomb.  Watston has also given up a walk in each of his past three appearances.  Against Arizona Alfredo Marte did the damage–another right handed hitter.

Jared Hughes relieved Watson.  After Hughes allowed a sac fly–costing Watson a run–he was able to end the inning and the Bucs held on for a 6-5 win.

The same was true last evening when Cutch picked up Watson.  With what I’ve observed, we think it might be nice if Watson can get a break from facing righties in big situations for a little bit?  You know, just a suggestion.

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We pulled up some data on Brooks Baseball:  We didn’t see much other than the changeup isn’t in play this season.  Perhaps the two pitch mix is the problem, not righties?  We can’t say definitively, but with the way Watson lands closed and his side arm release point, we really wish he would be used situationally a bit more.

Sure last night was difficult, because the Pirates seem to want to protect Justin Wilson for a possible start on Sunday–or an extended game should the starter exit early, but if that’s the case, then why not use the Triple-A roster last night to strengthen the club rather than shorten the roster in a big game against the top dog in the NL Central?  Sometimes the decisions the Pirates make, drive me crazy.

2013 is here:

 

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