Ponies Report: Winning is a tough task for 2nd-round pick
By Mike Scherting
Although Sean Watson is a starting pitcher for the Billings Mustangs, he pretty much knows that each time he takes the mound he's not going to get a win.
It's not that the Cincinnati Reds' second-round draft pick is overmatched in his first year of professional ball. In fact, the exact opposite is true. In five games, three of them starts, Watson hasn't given up an earned run (two unearned runs have scored off him) in 18.1 innings. He's allowed just seven hits and two bases on balls, and has struck out 15. Opponents are hitting just .113 against him.
So what's the deal?
Well, Watson had been a closer at the University of Tennessee the past year and a half, and he started this Pioneer League season in the Mustangs bullpen. When the team lost two of its starting pitchers, the Mustangs moved Watson into the starting rotation, but are limiting him to 50 pitches until his arm can get used to throwing more innings. Being limited to 50 pitches makes it difficult for a starter to throw five complete innings, which is the amount of innings required of a starter to be eligible for a victory. So far, Watson's longest stint has been four innings. The good news is that although he has yet to be eligible to record a victory, he hasn't lost a game, either, meaning his record stands at 0-0.
That's perfection as far Watson is concerned.
"I'll take a 0-0 over a 0-1, 0-2," Watson said. "I just try to get as many innings as I can with 50 pitches."
Watson's next scheduled start is Thursday at Idaho Falls and he'll take the mound once again knowing that he has to be nearly flawless to reach the magic five-inning mark. Watson acknowledges though, that the main thing is keeping his team in the game, not whether he can record a win for his individual stats. The Mustangs are 3-0 in games in which Watson is the starter.
"I think (the season's) been going very good," he said. "I'm just going to stick with my game plan, it's been working up until now. If I start getting hit around a little bit maybe I'll change it, but for now I'll stay with what I've been doing.
"I just go out there knowing I have 50 pitches to work with, so I try to get quick outs, throw a lot of strikes and make them put the ball in play early in the count so it doesn't really eat up my pitch count."
Burleson not worried about team's home run totals
When asked last week about his teamís lack of home runs, Mustangs manager Rick Burleson stressed patience.
ďI expect our guys to eventually break out and hit some just by getting their pitch,Ē he said after Jason Louwsma hit the teamís sixth homer of the season Friday night. ďWeíre not going to hit them swinging for them, thatís for sure. (Thursday night) it looked like a couple guys were swinging a little hard at times. Thatís just trying too hard. You just have to let it happen.Ē
Well, itís been happening lately.
Louwsma followed Fridayís dinger with another one on Saturday. Chris Valaika also homered on Saturday and Chris Heisey hit two home runs in a loss to Idaho Falls on Monday
Even with the recent home run surge, the Mustangs are still last in the eight-team league with 10 home runs. Idaho Falls has the next-lowest with 11, while Great Falls leads the league with 25.
Heisey leads the Mustangs with three home runs, while Louwsma and Valaika have two each.
Mustangs at Idaho Falls/Casper
The Mustangs continue their weeklong, eight-game road trip with a doubleheader tonight at Idaho Falls. The twinbill is needed because of a rainout on Wednesday at Cobb Field. Dane Mason is expected to start the first game, with Kyle Huddy getting his first start of the season in the second game. The Mustangs start a three-game series in Casper on Friday before returning to Cobb Field next Monday for a short homestand (three games) with the Helena Brewers.