Blake Treinen worked exclusively as a starter in the minor leagues last season, but the 26-year-old right-hander was back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in the major leagues, throwing 36 innings over eight starts and 14 ⅔ IP as a reliever.
The former Oakland A's prospect, acquired in the three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners and brought the righty, Ian Krol and A.J. Cole back to Washington, posted a 3.35 ERA, a 3.31 FIP, 20 walks (2.23 BB/9) and 64 Ks (7.14 K/9) in 80 ⅔ IP with the Nats' top minor league affiliate.
Treinen made his major league debut in April and posted a 3.00 ERA, a 3.60 FIP, 11 walks (2.75 BB/9) and 16 Ks (4.00 K/9) in 36 IP as a starter, with a 1.23 ERA, a 1.84 FIP, two walks (1.23 BB/9) and 14 Ks (8.59 K/9) coming out of the 'pen.
In a recent conversation with reporters, he said he was preparing for the same dual role this season.
"Still training as a starter," Treinen explained.
"I don't really know exactly what they want to do this year. As far as I know, last year my main role [was] as a starter. So I'm going to go in as a starter and just prepare to be stretched out."
"I would rather be prepared as a starter," he said. "The transition to me, to bullpen, isn't as bad. I mean, you're still throwing a baseball, you're still coming out, you're still getting warm."
"He has to train that way," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said.
"He has to train that way because we don't know if, in fact-- take example last year, Doug [Fister] not being ready for Opening Day. We have to make sure that Blake's training to be a starter and if he ends up being in the bullpen for some reason, then it's an easier transition as opposed to training as a reliever and trying to start."
"It's a blessing or a curse," Treinen said of enjoying success in both roles. "You can't look at it a negative way, cause I could not be ever having a chance up in the big leagues, so whatever role they give me I'm going to try to excel in."
"In a perfect world, you'd like to have a consistent role," Treinen said.
"But I know how it works. We have an all-star pitching staff, starters, bullpen, everybody. So, I know what I need to do, and for me it's just, when they need an opportunity, whatever they tell me my job is going to be I'll do it."
The right-hander got a taste of major league life last season, but he's not taking anything for granted as he prepares for this third season in the organization.
"I still try to have the mindset of having something to prove," he said.
"I was kind of feeling buoyed last year and I tried to give them the best I could. I was pretty happy with the year I had, but I'm never complacent. I just want to get to the point where I'm reliable and consistent."
In his time in the majors last season, Treinen took the opportunity to learn what he could from his teammates.
"I was pretty fortunate to sit next to some guys in the locker room," he said. "Stephen [Strasburg], Doug [Fister] and Tanner [Roark] and watch how they go about their business, and kind of just the mindset, picking Doug's mind, he's a sinkerballer like myself. So just pitching to contact and not really focusing on anything else but what you can control."
His focus this offseason, Treinen explained, is building up strength and focusing on locating the fastball Williams referred to as a "bowling ball at 97 [mph]," last Spring.
"My focus strength-wise, would be making sure I'm healthy for the season," Treinen said.
"I'm just now picking up a baseball this past week. Just once I start getting off the mound, working on locating my fastball in and out and a more consistent changeup."
The changeup, he said, was something he's been working on since joining the Nats.
"Since I've come to the Nationals' organization it's become more consistent and I'm developing a better feel for it.
"Before, when I was with Oakland, I just held a grip and threw it and just prayed it would be good. Here it's actually learning how to pitch with it. I'm not a guy who's known for a changeup, so I just want to be able to get to the point where it's something in the hitter's mind, that it can come at any time."
Adding a changeup to the mix along with a sinker that maxed out as 98.6 mph and averaged 94.4 mph, a four-seam fastball that hit 98 and averaged just over 95 mph and an 87 mph slider will definitely give hitters something to think about and could make Treinen even more dangerous on the mound whether he's starting or working out of the pen in 2015.