Pirates to reassess Watson as closer

June 7th, 2017

BALTIMORE -- After Tuesday's fourth blown save by Tony Watson, manager Clint Hurdle announced that he was sticking with his closer in the ninth. But, after Watson surrendered a game-tying homer to in Wednesday's eventual 9-6 extra-innings loss to the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Hurdle may be reconsidering.

"[Giving Watson a brief blow is] something that we talked about earlier, and I think we will have an opportunity to discuss some things on the way back tomorrow," Hurdle said. "We have to reassess who is available tomorrow as well, so that'll be a thought."

Johnny Barbato allowed the first two batters to reach in the ninth with the Bucs up 6-2. With a pair of runners in scoring position, Watson took over. Joey Rickard produced a sacrifice fly and J.J. Hardy doubled before struck out swinging.

Mancini fell behind in the count before lifting the eighth pitch of the at-bat -- an 86.7-mph changeup -- to right-center to tie the game at 6.

Hurdle had been debating between leaving Watson in the closing role or having the Pirates' most dominant reliever, setup man (0.58 ERA), take over the ninth inning. Prior to the game, Hurdle stated that he did not want to change the latter's role in the bullpen.

"I still feel we're best suited to keep Felipe in the role he's in to get to the ninth inning," Hurdle said. "The other argument is you move guys out and you put your best guys with stuff in the ninth inning, there's no guarantee you're gonna get there."

Hurdle had also said that the coaching staff may have found an answer to Watson's pitch-execution issues after watching some video, but Watson claimed that the changeup that Mancini took deep was not part of the discussed issues.

"It's all in the delivery," Watson said. "It's no certain pitch. But, like I said, you know, this isn't Spring Training. We're not out there working on things. We're trying to compete. Being the closer, you're supposed to close out games. No excuses. It's just not happening. It's inexcusable."

Despite Watson's recent struggles, Hurdle thought it would be important to show faith in his current closer, which is why he wanted to make sure he gave the ball back to Watson on Wednesday night fresh off of a blown save the night before.

"I have [given second chances and shown faith] in the past," Hurdle said. "We actually did it with Tony last year. I've done it with [Mark] Melancon, I've done it with every closer that we've had here. I make decisions and if they don't work out they are on me. It squarely falls on me. I believe in the men. I don't put it on them. I make a decision that didn't work out. We talk about ownership in this game. We talk about it on the field. The manager's got to take ownership with some things as well."