Drafted in the 40th round last season, the 23-year-old righty reliever had a pretty non-descript year at Low-A Charleston, posting 3-4 mark with a 3.88 ERA in 35 games. Watkins joins Rob Segedin and Taylor Grote as the latest player to get the unexpected phone call that his season wasn’t over just yet.
“I’d just woken up not too long before (the call), just trying to figure out what I was going to do. It was my first couple days home, so I was trying to figure out who I was going to see first with my family and my friends,” Watkins said.
“Then I saw had a missed call from Eric Schmitt, and I was like, ‘Oh, I wonder what this could be.’ I give him a call and he said, ‘Hey, hope you’re enjoying the offseason, but it isn’t there yet. You get to go to Trenton.’ I’m excited to be here. My mood went from being great after being home and seeing my family and friends to even better getting to play in the playoffs here in Trenton.”
Watkins, who has yet to throw a pitch for the Thunder, is a relative unknown in the Yankees system. Having pitched only at the lowest two levels of the minors, not too many fans have seen him pitch just yet, so he was kind enough to give a glimpse of what you’ll be seeing when he does eventually take the mound.
“I throw four pitches, and I like to just mix them in and try to keep the hitters off-balance,” he said.
“I don’t really have an overpowering fastball. Every now and then, I’ll sneak it by at guy at like 90-91, but I’m not the type of guy that can go in throwing 96 and expect to throw it down the middle and have them miss it. I throw a curveball, a slider — it’s kind of like a slider, kind of a cutter, it’s inbetween the two — and a split-finger; which is what I use as more of an out pitch, and a changeup.”
According to Trenton manager Tony Franklin, the loss of J.B. Cox and Wilkin De La Rosa opened the door for Watkins and the other inexperienced relievers on his depleted pitching staff.
“It gives somewhat a very good opportunity to show what they’re all about,” he said.
“I’ve always said that. When we lose someone from our bullpen, from our rotation, from our team…even if it’s someone with less experience, I think it’s an opportunity for someone to step up and claim a spot. I’ve always looked at it that way. I’m just a big believer that you’re in this game because you’re pretty good anyway. Jumping a level or moving up a level, here’s a chance to show what you’re all about. Looking at it like that, I don’t worry about it too much.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com