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Pirates notebook: Dodgers' Tony Watson gets chance to visit old teammates

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, 6:45 p.m.
Dodgers pitchers Tony Watson and Clayton Kershaw run in the outfield during practice before a game against the Pirates Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Dodgers pitchers Tony Watson and Clayton Kershaw run in the outfield during practice before a game against the Pirates Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at PNC Park.
Dodgers pitcher Tony Watson stands in left field during practice before a game against the Pirates Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Dodgers pitcher Tony Watson stands in left field during practice before a game against the Pirates Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at PNC Park.
Dodgers pitchers Tony Watson and Clayton Kershaw run in the outfield during practice before a game against the Pirates Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Dodgers pitchers Tony Watson and Clayton Kershaw run in the outfield during practice before a game against the Pirates Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at PNC Park.

Jordy Mercer and Tony Watson went out for pizza during the Pirates' series last month in San Diego. Between bites, they talked about the nonwaiver trade deadline, which then was only a few days away.

Watson, who will be a free agent this winter, reckoned he would be dealt and already was working through the emotions. If it had to happen, Watson wanted the trade to go down while he was around his family and teammates in Pittsburgh.

"Tony said he hoped he didn't get traded while (the team) was on the road," Mercer said. "And he didn't want it to happen on an off day."

The Pirates didn't have a game July 31, so Watson didn't get a chance to say goodbye when he was swapped to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a pair of low-level prospects.

"I came here (to PNC Park), packed up my stuff and flew to Atlanta the next day," Watson said. "It was a wild 36 hours, but it was something I'll never forget."

On Monday, Watson and the Dodgers opened a four-game series against the Pirates at PNC Park.

"It was different at first, putting on blue," Watson said. "I've got a lot of black and gold at the house in boxes that I'll sort through later. It's good to be over here (with the Dodgers), but there are mixed emotions coming back (to Pittsburgh). I still stay in touch with all those guys. It's good to be back and to see everybody."

A ninth-round pick in 2007, Watson came up through the Pirates' system and made his big league debut in 2011. He pitched in 456 games for the Pirates over seven seasons in the majors.

Many of Watson's new teammates were surprised he was with just one club for so long.

"That's one of the big things guys in here were talking about," Watson said. "I don't think it's fully sunk in yet for me. It was a good organization, a lot of relationships that I'll never forget."

When he was traded, Watson went from a club that's battling to stay on the fringes the NL Central race to a World Series favorite.

"The first day, you could feel the energy," Watson said. "What we're doing here is pretty incredible. I'm watching (the wins) pile up, and it's been a fun run. I've only been here a couple of weeks, but it's one of the most amazing experiences I've had in baseball. It's a good team, a good group of guys. Everybody cares a lot about winning, and the preparation and work that goes into each day. It's fun."

Before Monday's game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said it will be a bit weird to see Watson pitching for another team.

"It will all go away as soon as he takes the mound, though," Hurdle said. "We've already gone through the scouting report and talked about what we need to do to beat him. Game on. I'm sure he feels the same way."

Planet of the aches

Reliever George Kontos felt tightness in his groin as he was warming in the bullpen during Sunday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was something kind of fluky," Kontos said. "Wouldn't loosen up. Never had it before. I didn't want to push anything and make something that really is nothing worse."

On Monday, Kontos went through a full pregame workout — catch, long toss and flat-ground work — and said he felt fine.

Wade LeBlanc (strained left quad) reported no problems after playing catch on flat ground. He expects to throw a bullpen session within the next couple of days and is eligible to come off the disabled list Aug. 28.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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