From the minute Tony Watson stepped for the first time onto a mound in the big leagues for a game, he has felt the faith and trust of his manager.
A few poor outings that took place late during the season in 2016 will not change that.
With only half of his first spring training left as Pittsburgh closer, Watson remembers his first time on the mound. The southpaw remembered it not just for being his first time, but because it was a big situation and he helped the team.
Watson commented about how it was good to have his manager’s support and faith from the start. At that time he was a not very well known 26-year old.
Watson since that first time that manager Clint Hurdle called on him to put out a fire, has been doing so on a very frequent basis.
Watson has done this for five seasons and was handed the role of closer on August 1, when then closer Mark Melancon was traded.
Now the oldest as well as longest tenured Pirates reliever in the majors has become the bullpen’s undisputable leader.
Felipe Rivero, another reliever, said the bullpen is Watson’s and everything goes through him.
Watson took control of the bullpen after Melancon was traded to the Nationals for Rivero and another prospect on the trade deadline last season.
Watson up to that time was a combined 14-3, with an ERA of 1.76 over a period of 155 appearances during 2014 and 2015.
In 2014, Watson was named to the All-Star team and was recognized widely as one of the best setup men in baseball.
Watson’s first time to actually perform his duties as closer did not end up the way he had planned. In the 26 games following his promotion to closer, Watson allowed six homers.
He did not allow that many for an entire season since his 2011 rookie season. He gave up just 8 home runs between 2014 and 2015 over 152 plus innings pitched.
Overall, he allowed 10 home runs in 2016 which was the worst season for allowing home runs for the reliever since his 2011 rookie season.
His worst outing was when he allowed three home runs on September 6 against St. Louis in the ninth inning. However, taking that one game away, Watson converted 15 of 17 save opportunities following the trade of Melancon.