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04-05-2007, 07:24 PM
Starting pitcher turned pro after being drafted twice
By Marc Katz

Staff Writer

Thursday, April 05, 2007

DAYTON Opening Day is special no matter where it is.

Sean Watson has pitched on opening day before in high school, in front of a couple hundred schoolmates.

Tonight, he'll be on the mound at Fifth Third Field, starting for the Class A Midwest League Dayton Dragons as they open their season against West Michigan.

"I'm kind of excited about it, really," said Watson. "The other day, (Dragons manager) Donnie Scott asked me what I would think about starting on opening day. I wasn't thinking about it before that.

"It gives me a chance to kick off the season with a W."

Watson actually pitched a little for the Dragons last summer, without great results. He knows a little more what to expect, and has switched from the bullpen into a starter's role. He has had success in both pitching slots.

"I went to Florida Christian High School in Miami," Watson said. "We were a baseball school. We really weren't very good in football or basketball."

Watson was good enough to be drafted out of high school, by the Giants in the 21st round. He thought he could do better, so he went to Tennessee, where he pitched for three seasons, mostly in relief.

Last summer, the Reds selected him in the second round.

"My best year at UT was my sophomore year," Watson said. "But I had a good year as a junior, too."

He followed that with a season split between the rookie Billings, Mont., team, and the Dragons. The results were split, too. He was real good at Billings and only so-so at Dayton.

In the off-season, it was decided to turn Watson into a starter. He lost about 20 pounds from his 241-pound frame to get ready for the assignment, which includes better control.

In 2006, Watson said he was frustrated at times, not being able to put his pitches where he wanted. If his last start in spring training last Thursday is any indication, he has learned. He pitched four innings, using only 44 pitches. Nobody scored.

"He's got a lot of stuff," Scott said. "Making him a starter is a way for him to get more innings. He needs repetition. Being a starter will help him do that."

Watson says he "feels more prepared because of my off-season regimen."

He went back to Tennessee and worked with Luke Hochevar, his former teammate, now with the Kansas City Royals organization.

It is Opening Day, and Watson is ready.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2157 or mkatz@DaytonDailyNews.com.

A taste of Montana

Tonight's projected starting lineup for the Dragons includes all eight position players from last year's Billings (Mont.) regular-season Pioneer League championship team: catcher Tony Esquer, first baseman Logan Parker, second baseman Justin Turner, shortstop Chris Valaika, third baseman Juan Francisco and outfielders Chris Heisey, Drew Stubbs and Denis Phipps. Starting pitcher Sean Watson also was part of that team for a while.