So After Trading All Those Relievers, The Bullpen Needs Rebuilding.
If Mike Hinckley does debut with the Washington Nationals this September, as both Washington Post writer Chico Harlan and MLB.com's Bill Ladson are speculating in recent articles, it will be the end of a long road for the Montreal Expos' 3rd Round pick, 82nd overall in 2001. Drafted out of Moore High School, in Moore, Oklahoma as an 18-year old, the Oklahoma City-born Hinckley struggled in 5 starts and 3 relief appearances for the Gulf Coast Nationals in his first professional season, but the next year, the 6'3'' lefty lived up to the hype, posting a (6-2) record with a 1.37 ERA in 16 starts and 91.2 innings for the Vermont Expos.
In '03, Hinckley pitched with two Class-A Expos' affiliates, going (9-5) in 25 starts for the Savannah Sand Gnats, with a 3.64 ERA in 121.0 innings, and (4-0) with an 0.72 ERA in 4 starts and 25 innings with the higher Class-A Brevard Ct. Manatees, for whom he started the '04 season (6-2) with a 2.61 ERA in 10 starts before moving up to Double-A Harrisburg where he was again successful, finishing the season at (5-2) with a 2.87 ERA in 16 starts and 94.0 innings.
So when Hinckley didn't make the Nationals' roster out of Spring Training in '05, he was dejected, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article at the time entitled, "Hinckley just waiting for his chance" in which Mr. Ladson reports:
"Hinckley took his demotion to Double-A Harrisburg very hard. He sat in front of his locker for 10 minutes and said he didn't know what to do with himself."
Mr. Ladson's article was published at the Nationals' official site on 3/18/05...the previous January, on 1/4/05, Baseball America's Aaron Fitt had named Hinckley the #1 prospect in the Nationals' organization in his article entitled, "Top Ten Prospects: Washington Nationals". Hinckley did not respond well to his Spring '05 demotion, going (3-9) with a 4.93 ERA in 21 starts and 1 relief appearance at Class-A Potomac, and by the next time Aaron FItt published his, "Top Ten Prospects: Washington Nationals", on 11/16/05, Hinckley had fallen to 7th overall, passed on the list by pitchers Armando Galarraga, Clint Everts, Collin Balester, and the new #1 overall prospect, who had already debuted in DC, Ryan Zimmerman.
A (6-7) '06, in which Hinckley had a 5.34 ERA in 28 starts, followed by a (9-10) '07, found Hinckley almost completely out of the Nationals' plans, and nowhere near Aaron Fitt's postseason, "Top Ten Prospects: Washington Nationals", list from 11/7/07, when Ross Detwiler was named the new #1, the highest-ranked pitching prospect in the system, alongside Balester, Colton Willems, Zech Zinicola, Glenn Gibson, Jack McGeary, Josh Smoker, and Jordan Zimmerman, all of whom had made there way past the then-24-year-old Hinckley.
In 6 starts and 17 appearances with the Harrisburg Senators through July 12th of this season, Hinckley was (5-3) with a 5.12 ERA in 65 IP, but after joining the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in the most recent of his articles to mention Mike Hinckley, entitled, "Nationals working to revamp bullpen", reports that:
"Finally healthy, Hinckley was able to get the velocity on his fastball back and is now a quality reliever out of the bullpen for Triple-A Columbus. He has been often clocked in the low 90s mph. Entering Sunday's action, Hinckley had a 2.95 ERA in 16 games..."
Washington Post writer Chico Harlan brings up Hinckley as well in his similarly- themed post at the "Nationals Journal" entitled, "Rebuilding the bullpen", in which Mr. Harlan quotes DC GM Jim Bowden explaining the potential call-up:
"Since we've been here the last four years, (Hinckley) had no velocity, never got it to 90," Bowden said. "And now he's consistently back there. So it's a funny game."
So after ridding themselves of Bill Bray, Gary Majewski, Chad Cordero?, Jon Rauch and Luis Ayala, the Nationals are looking to rebuild the bullpen, according to both Mr. Ladson's and Mr. Harlan's articles, adding players like Steven Shell, Charlie Manning, Marco Estrada, Garrett Mock and now (possibly, finally) Mike Hinckley to the existing pen consisting of Jesus Colome, Saul Rivera and closer Joel Hanrahan. The process of rebuilding the relief staff is no easy endeavour, GM Jim Bowden warns in Mr. Harlan's article:
"'We're in a situation where we have to completely rebuild a bullpen from scratch, and that's what we're doing...So there are going to be growing pains with that. There's an adjustment period.'”
Maybe the Nationals should come up with some sort of a bold 3 or 5-year Plan to rebuild the bullpen? Sure it'll start 3-4 years after the initial 5-year plan to rebuild the franchise began, but in the end, 8-10 years later, the Nationals will be able to compe-..Oh, who am I kidding, by then it will be time for a new rebuilding stage...but seriously, after waiting for seven seasons, if Mike Hinckley can make it to the Majors, I might just forget about the way the Nationals treated the Flat-Brimmed Closer Chad Corder...That's a lie, I'll never forget...but bring up Hinckley, please?
(ed. note - "If Hinckley comes up, the Washington Nationals will have TWO left-handers in the bullpen? Don't get over-excited, DC fans, this is what it's like in the Majors...")
Next Game Tuesday night in DC against LA. 7:10 pm EST. Nationals Park. Balester vs Lowe. Manny Being Manny. Joe Torre in DC. It's Hollywood vs The Nation's Capital in Nationals Park.