Xavier Cedeno traveled back and forth between Triple-A Syracuse and the Washington Nationals' bullpen frequently, but didn't get much work in at the major league level in spite of repeated recalls throughout the first few months of the 2013 campaign. Cedeno, 27, was claimed off waiver from Houston in late April after three years in the Astros' organization in which he pitched a total of 39 innings in the majors. He was recalled by the Nationals for the first time on May 27th, but optioned out the next day. Between June 6th when he was called up a second time and the 17th of June when he was optioned out again, Cedeno threw 1 1/3 scoreless then returned to the Nats' top affiliate.
Cedeno was recalled and sent out again twice in August without logging any innings out of the Nationals' bullpen, but when he came up again in early September, Davey Johnson decided to see what the Nats had in the lefty.
In nine appearances for the Nats in the final month of the season, Cedeno gave up just one earned run in 4 2/3 IP, putting up a 1.93 ERA and a 0.90 FIP, with no walks and five Ks. On the year with the Triple-A Chiefs, the 6'1'' lefty was (2-0) with four saves, 16 walks (4.19 BB/9) and 45 Ks (11.80 K/9) in 34 1/3 IP over which he had a 1.31 ERA and a 2.82 FIP. When he came on strong late in the season as lefty Fernando Abad struggled to get lefties out, Johnson leaned on Cedeno more and more, joking with reporters at the time about how little he'd used the reliever to that point.
"'Where was he all year when I needed him?" Johnson asked rhetorically, as quoted by the Washington Post's James Wagner. "'Somebody dropped the ball,'" the now-former skipper joked. "'I’m glad to see him now.'"
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Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was impressed enough with what he saw from Cedeno in the left-hander's first season in the organization that he told reporters, including the WaPost's Mr. Wagner, at the recently-completed Winter Meetings, that Cedeno, "...earned the chance to be a left-handed specialist," in 2014.
He's held left-handers to a .231/.320/.308 line so far in his major league career and he posted a .231/.333/.269 line against lefties this season. Before the Nationals acquired 30-year-old lefty Jerry Blevins from the A's, new Nats' skipper Matt Williams talked about wanting to have two left-handers in his bullpen.
"I personally like a lefty specialist, if you will, that can come in and ‑‑ for that two‑out situation and get them out,'" Williams told reporters. "'I also like a guy that can do that, that we can stretch to another inning. As an example you've got a lefty in that fifth inning or whatever it is, or sixth inning, and then you've got left, right, left following. And he can go back out. The guys that Mike is talking about fit that bill.'"
After acquiring Blevins from Oakland, Rizzo told reporters he thought the 6'6'' left-hander who held left-handed hitters to a .224/.278/.358 line and right-handed hitters to a .240/.326/.385 line over seven seasons and 267 IP for the Athletics, would be Williams' first choice to face tough lefties, but, "...won’t be used strictly as a specialist, though, and is expected to pitch full innings with regularity," as NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman wrote after talking to the Nats' General Manager.
Rizzo's talked previously about Ross Detwiler pitching out of the pen if he's not in the rotation and he's also mentioned 25-year-old, 2010 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis as an option should the Nationals need left-handed help this season.
The Nationals' GM was willing to bring a less experienced, 22-year-old Ian Krol up from Double-A to the Nats' bullpen this past season, so the top-ranked left-hander in the organization would appear to be a realistic option for the 2014 bullpen at some point.
Rizzo was quoted in the Washington Post after the acquisition of Blevins saying he was "very happy with the group we have," in the bullpen now, but he declined to "make any promises" about the Nationals being done as the WaPost's James Wagner noted. Nationals.com writer Bill Ladson wrote in his Winter Meetings wrap that Cedeno, "...will join Blevins as the two lefties on the team entering Spring Training." Do you have the same faith in Cedeno that Rizzo seems to?
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