Watkins turns down coaching job, reaches majors with Orioles

HOUSTON (AP) – Spenser Watkins was at a crossroads this winter.

The right-hander had toiled in minors since 2014 without reaching adults. And with spring training quickly approaching and jobless, he was ready to quit baseball and take a job coaching a Phoenix high school freshman.

“There was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of pressure to find a way to support my family,” he said.

Then came the call that reignited a career that was so close to an end.

The Baltimore Orioles signed a contract with the 28-year-old pitcher for the minor leagues, leaving those freshmen without a coach but giving Watkins one more chance to make it to the big leagues.

This decision to give his lifelong dream another chance on Wednesday paid off. Baltimore picked his Triple-A Norfolk contract, and he joined the Orioles in Houston, where he could make his major league debut.

“I’m still in seventh heaven and it hasn’t really sunk yet,” Watkins said. “My phone turns on every two seconds when people congratulate me and tell me how grateful they are for being part of the trip.”

One person on this winding journey that stopped in Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, among other outposts, was his wife, Brittany. Watkins held back tears while expressing gratitude for his support over the years.

“It was a really special time to tell my wife (after) all the times she’s sacrificed herself with my leaving… and being able to tell her and her being horny for me was an amazing feeling,” he said. he declares.

Watkins was called up after right-hander Travis Lakins was placed on the injured list with throwing elbow pain. Manager Brandon Hyde admitted he didn’t know much about Watkins since he wasn’t in the big league camp, but noted he would help provide reinforcements to a reliever box that has been taxed in recent days.

Watkins was 1-2 with a 3.58 ERA in seven games with six starts for Norfolk this season after being sidelined all last year with the minor leagues closed due to the pandemic.

“When I’m on my four-seam fastball it’s bread and butter and I can roll over being on the top of the hitting zone with that and then use my curveball from that,” he said. he declared. “And then adding the cutter and working on the change this year also helped a ton.”

After waiting so long and almost giving up the sport he loved for so long, Watkins was still in shock hours after receiving the call he had always hoped he would come.

Now he’s just trying to calm his nerves before he gets his first call at an MLB mound.

“I think I’ve been shaking since I got the phone call… so I’m imagining here that in the next 24 hours it’s really going to start to affect me,” he said. “But right now, it looks surreal.”

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