Washington Nationals Pitchers And Catchers Report: Pt. 2 - The Relievers

USA TODAY Sports

There don't figure to be too many changes in the Washington Nationals' bullpen this season from what they had out there in 2013. Jerry Blevins is a new addition. Xavier Cedeno might earn a role. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano are back at the back end. Here are the Nats' relief options...

Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters last month he was happy with the roster going into Spring Training, but open to any values he could find on the market.

"We like our bullpen," Rizzo said. "We like our core players and we certainly like the construction of this roster. We [feel] that we filled some soft spots that we had on our roster last year and I think we’re an improved version of the 2013 team."

"We attacked our bullpen shortage, especially from the left side, when we made the trade for [Jerry] Blevins. And we feel good about that." - Mike Rizzo on Nats' bullpen on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

There don't figure to be too many changes in the Nationals' 'pen. New skipper Matt Williams said he would prefer to have two left-handers in his bullpen as Davey Johnson preferred as well, but while the Nats didn't have the lefties at the start of the 2013 campaign, the Nationals have several options available this season. Will new lefty Jerry Blevins fit in? Can Xavier Cedeno claim a spot as a second lefty? Any chance Sammy Solis works his way into the mix?

As for the right-handers? Will Drew Storen be more comfortable in a set-up role this season? Will Rafael Soriano be as effective as he was late last season? Can Christian Garcia insert himself into the conversation?

Pitchers and catchers reported on Thursday and had their first official workouts today. Here are the relief pitchers from the 40-Man Roster who are in camp with the Nationals this spring...

(ed. note - "As noted in the comment section, this collection was poorly titled. There are a mix of relievers from the majors and minors and younger pitchers both relievers and starters who are for one reason or another on the Nationals' 40-Man Roster and are in camp. They're unlikely to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but are in camp and could start/appear in games this spring. Sammy Solis, 25, has been talked about as a potential relief option at the major league level. Solis and RHP Aaron Barrett were added to the 40-Man Roster this winter. Matt Purke, 23, signed a major league deal out of the Draft, so he'll be in camp for a while. Felipe Rivero, 22, was acquired from the Rays this week and was on Tampa Bays' 40-Man, so he was added to the Nats' 40-Man. Apologies for any confusion...")

Bullpen:

Aaron Barrett - 6'4'', RHP - Aaron Barrett, a 26-year-old, 2010 9th Round pick out of the University of Mississippi, was added to the Nationals' 40-Man Roster after a 26-save campaign at Double-A Harrisburg in 2013. Barrett posted a 2.15 ERA and 1.87 FIP in 50 1/3 IP over which he walked 15 (2.68 BB/9) and K'd 69 (12.34 K/9) in his fourth season in the Nats' minor league system. Baseball America listed Barrett as having the Best Slider in the Nationals' organization though a press release after he was selected for the 40-Man Roster and protected from selection in the Rule 5 Draft noted that, "some label the pitch a power curve."

Aaron Barrett on 2013 season to MASN's Byron Kerr: "'Difference this year was just building on confidence from last year," Barrett said. "I know I was old for the level. I was 24-years-old in low-A. I knew I just had to take it to another notch and another level after 2012.'"

• Jerry Blevins: 6'6'', LHP - The Nationals acquired Jerry Blevins from the Oakland A's in exchange for the Nats' Minor League Player of the Year, outfielder Billy Burns. In his final season with the Athletics, Blevins, 30, finished at (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 IP. In his seven-year major league career, Blevins has a .224/.278/.358 line vs left-handed hitters and a .240/.326/.385 line vs right-handers. In 2013, Barrett was actually more effective against right-handers, however, with a .190/.267/.314 line vs RHB and a .253/.299/.442 line vs LHB.

Jerry Blevins on facing left and right-handed hitters: "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..."

• Xavier Cedeno - 6'1'', LHP - In 52 games and 39 IP out of the 'pen for the Houston Astros, left-hander Xavier Cedeno put up a 6.00 ERA with 21 walks (4.84 BB/9) and 39 K's (9.00 K/9) before he was placed on waivers last April and selected by the Washington Nationals. Cedeno bounced up and down between Triple-A and the Nats' bullpen all season in 2013, not getting much work in the majors, but putting up a 1.31 ERA and a 2.82 FIP with 16 walks (4.19 BB/9) and 45 Ks (11.80 K/9) in 34 1/3 IP for the Nationals' top affiliate. Cedeno finally got an opportunity to actually pitch in the majors in September and working as a left-handed specialist put together a stretch of 4 2/3 IP over which he had a 1.93 ERA. As Spring Training begins, he's the leading candidate if the Nationals keep a second lefty in the bullpen.

Nats' GM Mike Rizzo on Cedeno via the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore: "'Cedeno has earned the opportunity to be the left-on-left guy," Rizzo said. "He was terrific in the minor leagues last year and in the big leagues, in the short stint he was up there.'"

Tyler Clippard - 6'3'', RHP - The Nationals and their 29-year-old right-handed set-up man and one-time closer agreed on a 1-year/$5.875M deal on 2/10/14, avoiding arbitration. In 2013, Clippard posted a 2.41 ERA, a 3.82 FIP, 24 walks (3.04 BB/9) and 73 Ks (9.25 K/9) in 72 games and 71 IP out of the Nats' bullpen in his sixth season in the nation's capital following a trade from the New York Yankees who drafted the right-hander out of high school in Florida in the 9th Round of the 2003 Draft. Clippard is likely to return to his role as the Nationals' primary set-up man in 2014, though he filled in admirably as the closer in 2012 when Drew Storen was recovering from elbow surgery.

Clippard on lessons of the disappointing 2013 season: "We have to go out there and earn it and I think we all know that as a group now. It's not just going to be given to us. And it's going to make us dangerous because going through that stuff is important for clubs to take the next step."

Erik Davis - 6'2'', RHP - Acquired in a March 2011 trade with the San Diego Padres in return for infielder Alberto Gonzalez, Erik Davis, 27, made his MLB debut in 2013. Davis was (3-7) with 15 saves for the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate last season, posting a 3.10 ERA and a 3.28 FIP in 52 1/3 IP in which he walked 20 (3.40 BB/9) and K'd 54 (9.29 K/9). In 8 2/3 IP in the majors, the right-hander put up a 3.12 ERA, a 0.62 FIP, a walk (1.04 BB/9) and 12 Ks (12.46 K/9). Unfortunately, Davis is the first casualty of the 2014 season. After experiencing discomfort in his elbow while working out this offseason, Davis was shut down after the pain returned once he reported to Florida for the start of Spring Training.

Mike Rizzo on placing Erik Davis on 60-Day DL to MASN's Dan Kolko: "'We felt that the prudent thing to do was just to be to put him on the 60-day DL, allow him to take his time because it's probably going to be six to eight weeks before he gets rolling anyway.'"

• Christian Garcia - 6'5'', RHP - Christian Garcia broke through in 2012 in the nation's capital, but his 2013 season ended after just a few pitches in a bullpen session last Spring  when he suffered a torn tendon in his right forearm. Shut down at that point, Garcia worked his way back to the mound but a hamstring injury kept him out of action until September. Garcia is back in camp, however, and healthy. If he can match the numbers he put up in 2012, (0.56 ERA, 1.87 FIP, 10.58 K/9 in 32 1/3 IP in Triple-A; 2.13 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 10.66 K/9 in 12 2/3 IP in the majors), Garcia could force the Nationals to make a difficult decision about the makeup of their bullpen.

Davey Johnson on Christian Garcia's arsenal: "Fastball? Great movement, mid-90's, pitches mid-90's. He threw some 97 mph sinkers last year that were unhittable. Threw some of the best changeups. As good as Stras. Stras is harder, [but] when he keeps it down, it's unhittable. [Garcia's] curve ball might even be better than [Strasburg's]."

Ryan Mattheus - 6'3'', RHP - A broken right hand, suffered when he slammed his glove into his locker after a particularly rough outing in San Diego, interrupted Ryan Mattheus' third season in the majors. Mattheus, 30, was acquired from the Colorado Rockies, who drafted him in the 19th Round of the 2003 Draft, in a July 2009 trade. The right-handed reliever finished the 2013 campaign with a a 6.37 ERA, a 3.44 FIP, 15 walks (3.82 BB/9) and 22 Ks (5.60 K/9) in 37 games and 35 1/3 IP for the Nationals. Mattheus has a lot to prove this Spring after a moment of frustration hurt him last season.

Ryan Mattheus on frustrating season in 2013: "I had this self-inflicted injury that was a pretty boneheaded move on my part. And I had to sit around for two months and watch my teammates try to get back in that thing, you know, and that's tough to swallow."

Matt Purke - 6'4'', LHP - A 1st Round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2009, Matt Purke decided to attend college rather than sign for less than he was originally offered by Texas. The Nationals drafted the left-hander in the 3rd Round in 2011 after Purke suffered a shoulder injury in his second collegiate season. Purke finally had surgery to repair his shoulder in the winter of 2012 and he returned to competitive action in 2013, making 18 starts at two stops in the Nationals' system. With the Low-A Hagerstown Suns, Purke was (1-1) with a 2.48 ERA and 2.54 FIP in 29 IP in which he walked seven (2.17 BB/9) and struck out 41 (12.72 K/9). At High-A Potomac, Purke was (5-3) in 12 starts, with a 4.43 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 18 walks (2.66 BB/9) and 41 Ks (6.05 K/9) in 61 IP. After a second stint in the Arizona Fall League, Purke has a big season ahead of him in 2013.

MLB.com's Bernie Pleskoff's scouting report on Purke in the AFL: "In Arizona, Purke threw his sinking fastball at 89-91 mph. While the velocity wasn't overwhelming, it set up his very solid 78-mph slider very well. It was Purke's slider and split-fingered fastball that induced swings and misses and infield outs."

• Felipe Rivero - 6'0'', LHP - Signed out of Venezuela in 2008, 22-year-old left-hander Felipe Rivero was added to the Tampa Bay Rays' 40-Man roster in 2012 to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. At High-A Chartlotte in the Rays' system last season, Rivero was (9-7) with a 3.40 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 52 walks (3.69 BB/9) and 91 Ks (6.45 K/9) in 25 games, 23 of them starts and 127 IP. Acquired by the Nationals along with catcher Jose Lobaton and outfield prospect Drew Vettleson in the trade that sent RHP Nathan Karns to Tampa Bay. Rivero was added to the Nats' 40-Man roster.

Mike Rizzo on Felipe Rivero via MASN's Dan Kolko: "'Felipe Rivero, we've got very, very strong reports on him. He's pitched at 21 years old in the Florida State League, throws 95, 96 (mph), he can spin the breaking ball and he's got a huge upside.'"

• Sammy Solis - 6'5'', LHP - Sammy Solis missed the entire 2012 campaign after Tommy John surgery, but the 2010 2nd Round pick returned to the mound in 2013 and has been talked about this winter as a potential option out of the pen if the Nationals need a left-hander. Solis made one start for the Nationals' Gulf Coast League affiliate, but he spent the majority of his fourth season in the Nats' system at High-A Potomac, where the lefty was (2-1) in 13 games, 12 of them starts, over which he put up a 3.43 ERA and a 3.48 FIP with 19 walks (2.97 BB/9) and 40 Ks (6.24 K/9) in 57 2/3 IP. Solis then made his third trip to the Arizona Fall League, where he went (5-2) with a 2.17 ERA, 2.48 FIP, seven walks (2.17 BB/9) and 29 Ks (9.00 K/9) in 29 IP.

Sammy Solis on possibility of pitching in the majors in 2014 season: "Honestly, I think I'm finally ready to make an impact with the team. I'm just working hard, keeping my head down and let the front office make the decisions."

• Rafael Soriano - 6'1'', RHP - The Nationals surprised many in the baseball world when they signed Rafael Soriano late last winter, giving the then-33-year-old reliever a 2-year/$28M deal. In his first season as Washington's closer, Soriano lost velocity on his fastball for the fourth straight season and his K/9 (6.89) was down from 8.19 K/9 in his final season with the New York Yankees in 2012. He also managed to save 43 games in 49 opportunities, and when the Nationals went on a run late in the season, Soriano was strong, saving 12 games in 12 opportunities and putting up a 1.17 ERA in his final 15 1/3 innings of work.

Davey Johnson on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. on Soriano in 2013: "He hasn't had as good a year as he's certainly capable of. He hasn't pitched to his abilities. I'd say he's down too. He saved a lot of games. He's had miscues in some. The defense has helped him..."

Craig Stammen - 6'3'', RHP - Craig Stammen, a Versailles, Ohio-born right-hander selected in the 12th Round of the 2005 Draft, put up a 2.76 ERA, a 2.82 FIP, 27 walks (2.98 BB/9) and 79 Ks (8.71 K/9) in 81 2/3 IP in his fifth major league season in 2013. Working in middle relief out of the Nats' bullpen for the second straight season, Stammen held opposing hitters to a .262/.323/.359 line. Stammen told reporters last month that with few changes to the makeup of the Nats' pen, he expects to play the same role for the Nationals in 2014.

Stammen on his role in 2014 bullpen: "You always want your role to increase. You always want to pitch in more crucial spots, and I think I got that towards the end of the year. It's obviously more exciting to pitch in closer ballgames, but also pitching the two, three, four innings, I like doing that too, it makes me still want to be a starter."

• Drew Storen - 6'1'', RHP - The Nationals' '09 1st Round pick struggled in a new role in 2013, working as a set-up man after a disappointing end to the 2012 season that saw him unable to close out the fifth game of the NLDS with St. Louis. Storen struggled and was actually sent down to Triple-A Syracuse in late July, but returned to the majors in mid-August and finished strong, putting up a 1.40 ERA over the final 19 1/3 IP of his fourth major league season. Storen finished the year with a (4-2) record, three saves, a 4.52 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 19 walks (2.77 BB/9) and 58 Ks (8.46 K/9) in 61 2/3 IP.

Storen on getting sent to Triple-A last summer: "It wasn't ideal, obviously, but you can't argue with the results when I came back. So I'm happy with where I'm at right now and I think that's kind of the main thing."

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