Matt Williams told reporters this morning that some of the tough final roster decisions left this spring could come after today's Grapefruit League game and tomorrow morning.
The Nationals and their first-year skipper made one of the tough decisions yesterday, reassigning 25-year-old, hard-throwing right-hander Blake Treinen after the former Oakland A's prospect acquired in the Mike Morse deal with the Athletics and Seattle Mariners last winter put together an impressive run in Spring Training action that left him in the mix for the final available bullpen spot.
"He's just an exceptional young man," Williams said Monday.
The Nationals told Treinen as much and let him him know he's in line for a call up to make his major league debut if the need arises.
"We let him know that he is our 'next wave,' if you will," Williams said. "And he proved everything he had to prove this spring to us. We're all certainly pleasantly surprised with his progress and the way he threw the baseball. And as we get to these last four games here, it's going to be hard to find him innings, so we certainly don't want to do him the disservice of having him sit around."
Treinen started in all-but one of his 2013 appearances at Double-A Harrisburg in the Nats' system last summer in his first season in the organization. He finished the year with a (6-7) record, a 3.64 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 33 walks (2.50 BB/9) and 86 Ks (6.52 K/9) in 21 games, 20 starts and 118 2/3 IP. Treinen worked out of the bullpen this spring, but he'll return to a starting role in the minors.
"We want to stretch him out a little bit too," Williams explained. "So he was grateful, he was thankful for the opportunity and we just told him that we're all very impressed with the way he went about it."
"His stuff plays," the Nationals' manager continued. "His stuff plays at any point later in the game. It's a bowling ball at 97 [mph]. So that's all good. Again, we have some depth certainly in the starting roles, so he may be able to help us in the bullpen."
Treinen told the Nats' skipper and coaches yesterday that he actually enjoyed working out the bullpen when he spoke to them about being reassigned.
"We asked him the question this morning," Williams said. "He likes the bullpen as well. It's hard for a guy that potentially is a top-of-the-rotation-type starter with his stuff to say, 'Hey what do you think about this?' But he enjoyed it."
FBB's Recommended Reading:
Yesterday's move left the Nationals with right-handers Aaron Barrett and Ryan Mattheus and lefties Xavier Cedeno and Mike Gonzalez in the mix for the final spot in the bullpen, which could of course also go to Tanner Roark if he loses out in the battle for the fifth spot in the Nats' rotation.
Though the decision to move Ross Detwiler into the bullpen gave the Williams two left-handers in the 'pen, he said Monday afternoon that he hasn't ruled out the possibility of keeping either Cedeno or Gonzalez for the Opening Day roster considering the opponents that are lined up in the first few weeks of the season...
"It depends on how we feel like we can best construct the lineup and the bullpen moving in to Opening Day," Williams explained. "So we know who we are facing the first 15 games of the season and it's all within the division. And certainly looking at those team, the Braves are heavy left-handed. The Mets are heavy left-handed. So, I think the decision comes down to more of a situational-type lefty potentially as a third lefty."
That is, of course, if they decide against giving Barrett the spot or having Roark take it if Taylor Jordan makes the rotation...
The bullpen decisions could come tonight or tomorrow. The fifth starter battle might go on a little longer even though both candidates are done pitching in Grapefruit League action.