2006 Off-Season Q&A: Michael Watkins

Bobby Henley praises Watkins' "pounding the zone."

Michael Watkins missed nearly the entire 2006 season with a hamstring injury, but that hasn't kept the Washington Nationals from holding high hopes for his future. We recently sat down with the 18-year-old righty to discuss his goals for 2007, his injury in 2006, and much more.

CapitolDugout.com: First of all, Michael, I understand you had a hamstring injury that kept you out of action for pretty much the entire season. When did the injury happen and was it something that bothered you for a while?

Michael Watkins: This all happened two days before the regular season started. I went through Extended Spring Training with no problems and I was doing phenomenal. So mini-camp came around and we were doing rundowns one day, so I was up and broke off the bag with my leg and I heard a pop in my hamstring. So I come to find out it just wasn't getting any better. So, with a month into me rehabbing it, I was up and running again 110%. Now, a week or two with me waiting around to pitch, the coach put me into one of our home games at the stadium. I think I came in during the fifth, but I walked the first guy and the second guy tried to bunt him over. He popped it down the first base line just enough for me to catch it, so again I broke off with my bad leg and I head another loud pop again. I haven't picked up a baseball since.

CapitolDugout.com: What do you think will be the timeline for you to start throwing again and do you think you will be ready by next spring training?

Michael Watkins: Well I'll be starting running in the beginning of October, and throwing in the beginning of November. They actually kept me there two extra weeks so that the trainer could have 1 on 1 with me instead of have 12 or 13 guys to worry about, so I stayed down an extra 2 weeks and now I'm feeling 110% again, ready to go back in March for Spring Training.

CapitolDugout.com: If you would, could you take us through your repertoire?

Michael Watkins: My pitches consists of a fastball which was clocked up to 92 MPH this year as well as last year. I have a curveball which was working really good in extended as well as my changeup and split-finger. They made me a starter in extended and I did really good with location of the ball and velocity. I was "pounding the zone" as our coach Bobby Henley would like to say. Other than being injured for three months I think I did really good. And, I know the coaches thinks so as well. They were mad that I had gotten injured too. They were looking forward to seeing me pitch in the regular season. But, hey it happens to the best of us right?

CapitolDugout.com: What would you say is your strongest attribute on the mound?

Michael Watkins: I can't say that I am better than any other pitcher because we are all on the same level. But, if I really had to choose my best attribute, it would be my attitude towards the game, like picking your head up after giving up a home run and going back out and "pounding the zone". I'm still young, and I still have a ways to go. For a kid who got drafted last year throwing 92 MPH out of high school when he was 17 is pretty impressive I would say.

CapitolDugout.com: A lot of guys say you can learn a lot just by watching the game. Since you were injured this year, what were some things you picked up just by watching?

Michael Watkins: Honestly, I don't like watching baseball games. I think it is boring. But, our coach asks us questions like "what inning is it?", or "what's the count?" to keep us in the game. I have seen a lot of cockiness on the field and a lot of anger after a bad throw is made, and someone gave up a home run or whatever the case may be. I have learned that I will always keep my head in the right place even if there are two fans at the game. But, most of the time I really didn't get a chance to watch the entire time, because I was either retrieving foul balls or was the ball boy or bat boy every game.

CapitolDugout.com: Switching gears for a minute, which of your fellow pitchers on the GCL Nationals impressed you the most and why?

Michael Watkins: That's a tough one because our pitching was the one thing that was holding up on the field everyday. If I had to choose, it would have to be Eduardo Pichardo. Coming off last season which his ERA was through the roof, he made a total change this year. He located better, his velocity increased and his pitches were working better. He's also a good kid on and off the field. He was consistent this year.

CapitolDugout.com: Who else stood out to you as being impressive?

Michael Watkins: Like I said, there was not one bad pitcher. If I had to choose another one, I would have to say Wuillys Bravo. He was outstanding this year and he was the one who always pounded the zone. He is a phenomenal pitcher.

CapitolDugout.com: What do you think has been the most important lesson you have learned since turning pro?

Michael Watkins: The one lesson that I have learned is to never be cocky about what you do or how much money you make. Things will come back and haunt you.

CapitolDugout.com: Going all the way back to the draft, what were your expectations that day and was college a serious consideration for you?

Michael Watkins: I knew that I was getting drafted two days before the draft. I had plans on going to college, but when I found out that I had scouts from Washington Nationals and the Colorado Rockies at my state championship games and with me doing really good my High School year, I had it in the back of my head that I was going to get drafted.

CapitolDugout.com: How would you just describe your overall approach on the mound?

Michael Watkins: I sometimes have a tendency to rush. I just get way too excited on the mound and I just want to get up there and strike the guy out. I have slowed it down a few notches now, and that's why I was doing so good this year. There is no time limit in baseball and pitchers own the game. My approach, I think, is better than last year.

CapitolDugout.com: Heading into next spring training, what will be your goals for the 2007 season?

Michael Watkins: One goal would definitely be to be injury free, and do what I did in extended this year the entire year next year and have a really good chance to be in either Savannah or Potomac.

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