Jerry Blevins was (5-0) with a 3.15 ERA, a 3.88 FIP, 17 walks (2.55 BB/9) and 52 Ks (7.80 K/9) in 60 innings pitched out of the Oakland A's bullpen last season, finishing his seventh major league campaign at +0.3 fWAR.
As the Athletics battled the Detroit Tigers to five games in the ALDS, however, the call never came for Blevins to come out of the pen. At NatsFest in the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD this past Saturday, the 30-year-old reliever said he thought then that his time with the Athletics might be up.
"I saw how I didn't pitch at all in the playoffs and there [were] a few situations where normally that would be my position," Blevins said. "But you never speculate. You start doing that, you start questioning what's going on and you can get caught up in a lot of different stuff. But you're prepared for anything as a baseball player. You understand that there is a business to it as well. And if you do get traded, you couldn't ask for a better spot to be traded to."
The Nationals sent their 2013 Minor League Player of the Year, Billy Burns, to the A's in return for Blevins, adding the left-hander to the mix that they were after this winter. "We had good reports," Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters this weekend, "good scouting reports on Blevins. He's a guy that takes the ball and can pitch multiple outs, multiple innings. And a guy that's had success on a championship-caliber [club]."
Blevins has done his homework since the deal went down, getting to know his new team even before he got to meet many of his new teammates for the first time last weekend.
"I know that they're a very competitive team," Blevins said. "They want to win. They're ready to win now. They're coming off what many consider a little bit of a sub-par season. They had a really good season, they didn't win their division, didn't make the playoffs, but I know that they want to win and I know that everybody is all in."
The 6'6'' left-hander does have history with some Nationals, which has helped to make him immediately comfortable in the nation's capital.
"I played college ball at Dayton with Craig Stammen, so that's a comfort level," Blevins said. "Playing with Gio, Gio Gonzalez, I kind of came up with through the Oakland system. There's just a comfort level of being a baseball player and you understand that the clubhouses are pretty much all the same, you just kind of get used to the new faces and new personalities."
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Asked what he thought he would add to the mix in Washington, the affable reliever said he hoped he could bring some positivity. "Hopefully I just add a positive personality. Somebody that keeps the clubhouse light but also focused and headed to a positive direction. Just somebody that can go out and do their job and be an example of somebody that's ready to go every day and ready to do whatever the team asks for him [to do]."
Gio Gonzalez told reporters he thought Blevins would fit in well and more importantly fill an important role in the relief corps.
"We were in, I think, Sacramento together for our minor league career," Gonzalez said. "And we've been dressed out on our rookie initiation a couple of times. So, we've experienced the same kind of treatment our entire careers. Now it's great to have him back on board. I love Jerry Blevins, he's one of my favorite left-handed pitchers out of the bullpen. I think he's a big, big piece to our bullpen this year.
"I think Jerry is going to bring that lefty specialist we need. One of those guys who are going to come in -- you know the guys we missed, obviously we had Sean Burnett and we had Tom Gorzelanny, but I think Jerry is going to fill in that spot, Mike Gonzalez, those guys that we had. But Jerry is one of those guys that will give you a couple of innings that are going to be solid."
"He'll fit right in," Craig Stammen said. "He's an awesome guy. He's actually really intellectual and kind of a really forward thinker, so I think him and Drew [Storen] will get along really well and then obviously he and I will get along really well from our time at Dayton."
As for what role he expects to play, Blevins said he's open to doing whatever the Nationals ask. "I obviously have no preference. I'll come in and face a batter. The competitive side of me likes to face as many people as I can. I pride myself on being able to get lefties and righties out, but I understand that there is a need for lefty on lefty matchups, so, literally whatever is asked of me I'll do with a smile on my face." In his career, Blevins has a .240/.326/.385 line vs right-handers and a .224/.278/.358 line vs lefties. Last year, however, he had a reverse split, holding right-handers to a .190/.267/.314 line, while lefties had a .253/.299/.442 line against him. Blevins said he hasn't spent too much time wondering what the difference was last season.
"It's not something that I keep track of, it's just overall effectiveness," he explained. "I feel like I can throw a changeup pretty well. A backdoor cutter to righties. It's just a matter of being on top of four pitches and being able to execute."
While he's not dwelling on his stats, he has asked around and done some homework to prepare for his first season in the National League.
"I talked to some of my past teammates about what National League baseball is all about," Blevins said. "A lot of guys that can tell me the ins and outs and the differences between being in the National League and the American League, so I'm looking forward to facing some new hitters.
"Being a fan, I'm a fan of National League baseball because there's a lot more that goes into strategy and the double-switch and dealing with not having a DH. I think that as a fan it's more fun to watch because there [are] smaller intricacies of the game that go in and out, but as a pitcher, you could be available early on and then they can double-switch or you could come into the game right away and get a key hitter and you could face one hitter, you could [go] an inning and go an inning-plus. So there's a little bit of subtle differences, but when it comes down to it, baseball is baseball."
He does know that he has a whole new group of lefties to prepare for though he's faced some before in Interleague play. "I'll do my homework and I'll be ready to go," Blevins said. "They don't know me either, so it's a little bit of a surprise on both ends." He and the the NL's lefties will get to know each other fairly quickly though, and that's when things get interesting.
"It plays into a little bit of a chess match," he said. "You get those guys that you know. I've faced David Ortiz a ton in my career and he knows what I bring to the table. I know what he brings to the table. And it's a matter of outwit, outsmart. I'm not going to be a guy that's going to throw 98 right by you, I'm going to put my pitches in spots and I'm going to let you get yourself out or I'm going to outduel you."
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