Tony Watson (44) days until Opening Day.
After debuting in June of 2011, the left-handed reliever is set to begin his second full season out of the Bucco bullpen.
Three questions about number 44…
1. Will he be the lone lefty in the ‘pen? For most of last season, Watson was the only southpaw among Pirates relievers. However, he may have some company out there this year. Young gun Justin Wilson has a shot at making the club, and other lefties Andy Oliver, Jonathan Sanchez, and Mike Zagurski could be pieces of the bullpen as well.
2. Will he see some eighth inning action? Rob Biertempfel’s article on new Bucco Mark Melancon featured this tidbit:
“This season, Melancon, Jared Hughes and left-hander Tony Watson will fill Grilli’s old job. When a righty is needed, Melancon likely will be the first choice…”
If the opposition has a few left-handed batters coming to bat in the eighth, it’ll be interesting to see if Clint Hurdle sends Watson out to shut them down. Watson could be effective in Jason Grilli‘s former spot.
3. How will his splits turn out in 2013? In his first year with the Bucs, Watson put up some odd splits; he was actually more successful against right-handed hitters (.193 batting average) than left-handed hitters (.273 batting average). That trend leveled out last season however, as lefties hit just .183 and righties were higher at .213. We expect Watson to see plenty of hitters from both sides of the plate, so we’re curious to see who he finds more success against in 2013.