For whatever reasons - whether it's more confidence, an improved attitude, better luck or a new family lifestyle - Scott Watkins is a different pitcher than he was last season for the Salt Lake Buzz.
A year ago Watkins struggled. So far this season the 6-foot-3 lefty has been nothing short of sensational.Watkins has yet to give up a run in 10 relief appearances and 15 innings this year. With the help of a game-winning single by Scott Stahoviak, Watkins earned his second victory of the season Saturday afternoon. The Buzz beat the Edmonton Trappers, 5-4, in 10 innings at Franklin Quest Field.
"How about that relief pitching? Holy cow," Buzz manager Phil Roof said. "If Scotty (Watkins) keeps that up we might have to find him another place to pitch."
Indeed, the 24-year-old Watkins could find himself with the parent Minnesota Twins if he keeps up his present productivity.
Watkins' 15 consecutive scoreless innings are a Buzz record. During the stretch he's given up just four hits while striking out 13. He's now 2-0 with four saves. By comparison, last season Watkins gave up 73 hits in 57 innings for the Buzz and had a 6.75 ERA and a 2-6 record.
"He's pitching with a lot of confidence right now," Buzz pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "The big thing is his frame of mind. He's mentally in every game and ready to pitch. He's pitching aggressively and pitching smart with all the confidence in the world right now."
Watkins credits a lifestyle change, as much as anything, for his fine start.
"I got married during the offseason and I found out a few days ago that my wife is expecting a baby," Watkins said. "I have a lot more to play for now and I'm a lot happier. Last season I got down and was miserable the whole season. I took everything personal. Now I know there's more to life than baseball."
Said Stahoviak, "Watty has very good stuff. Last year he was an unlucky pitcher, but he's always had good stuff and he's showing that this year."
Watkins entered the game in the seventh inning with the score tied 4-4. He pitched three shutout innings. Watkins' teammates scored a run for him in the 10th inning to make him the winner.
Salt Lake's Steve Dunn led off the 10th with a single to center. Pinch runner Mitch Simons was then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Damian Miller. Simons scored the winning run when Stahoviak slapped a single to right.
"I'd say it was a pretty lucky swing, to tell you the truth," said Stahoviak of his game winner.
The Buzz spotted the Trappers a big lead, as Edmonton scored four runs off starter Oscar Munoz in the second inning. Edmonton's Curtis Shaw flirted with danger - walking seven Buzzmen in the first three innings - but only allowed one run. Salt Lake's first hit of the game, a Dunn double, drove in Brian Raabe for a run in the third inning.
The Buzz knotted the score with a three-run sixth inning with third baseman Tom Quinlan's two-run triple being the big blow.
Salt Lake is now 10-11 on the year, while Edmonton fell to 9-10.
BUZZ BRIEFS: The Buzz and Trappers will play the third game of their four-game series with Edmonton this afternoon at 2. Mike Misuraca (1-1, 2.25 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Buzz against the Trappers' Doug Johns (0-2, 5.31) . . . Salt Lake is now 2-1 in extra inning games this season.