BRADENTON, Fla. -- This has not been an easy spring for Tony Watson, who has battled some shoulder discomfort and some mechanical uncertainty and finds himself with an ERA almost as high as his age.
The good news for Watson is the Pirates will overlook most of these ugly outings if he can show some consistency over the next week or so -- at least show he can be the pitcher they've come to know from the past one and a half seasons. There is no real urgency for him to "win" a spot in the bullpen.
His outing yesterday in Orlando was his first in a Grapefruit League game since Feb. 28. He allowed three earned runs on three hits.
"I'm just ready to go," he said, meaning he is anxious to get back in the groove. "Obviously wasn’t what I wanted out there – two base hits and a home run. But I finished the inning strong, so I’ll go from there, go in the next couple days or whatever."
In a minor league game earlier this week, Watson admits he was excitable, pulling his front side a little fast because he was anxious to be back on the mound. On Wednesday, he said it felt a little different to pitch in front of a crowd in that setting.
"The first time back out there in a game, people in the seats," he said. "I definitely had the adrenaline running. I just have to get sharper, be sharper. No excuses. That’s just not what I was looking for."
Mechanically, Watson said he feels "normal." And from a health standpoint, he said he feels fine.
He might be the last remaining question in the Pirates' bullpen, especially now that Bryan Morris has been granted a fourth option year (my story in today's Post-Gazette is about the bullpen battle, along with a look at Morris).
"Everything was coming out all right," he said. "I hung the slider. But other than that, I thought a couple pitches here and there, but I thought for the most part it was coming out of my hand all right. The arm action was good. I’ve just got to get it going. We’ve got a week and a half down here. I’ve got to get it right."
A night game today in Sarasota against the Baltimore Orioles. Jonathan Sanchez will get his last chance to state his case for a spot in the Pirates' rotation. His chances improved at the expense of Kyle McPherson, who struggled against a really good lineup in Orlando against the Braves.
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