Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo is on record saying he thinks 27-year-old reliever Xavier Cedeno earned the right to fight for a spot in the 2014 Nats' bullpen with the work he did last season. Cedeno was (2-0) with four saves, 16 walks (4.19 BB/9), 45 Ks (11.80 K/9), a 1.31 ERA and a 2.82 FIP in 34 1/3 IP at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nationals' system after he was selected off waivers from the Houston Astros last April. Pitching out of the Nats' pen in September, Cedeno posted a 1.93 ERA and a 0.90 FIP, with no walks and five Ks in 4 2/3 IP in which he allowed just one earned run.
Rizzo told the Washington Post's James Wagner this winter, that the left-hander with a career .231/.320/.308 line against lefties, "...earned the chance to be a left-handed specialist."
New Nationals' manager Matt Williams was asked this afternoon what role he saw Cedeno filling this season? Will he give the Nats two lefties along with Jerry Blevins, who was acquired from the Oakland A's this winter?
"We don't know that at this point," Williams said. "But I'll tell you what I do like. I do like his effectiveness against left-handed hitters. He's got multiple angles. The question is, 'How does he handle righties?' Of course, that's always the question. But, I like that feel of him certainly against a lefty in a situational spot or a left-right-left-type situation, so that's what we'll look at this spring and make a determination."
After his strong season with the Nationals, Cedeno pitched in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente this winter, going (0-2) with a 2.49 ERA, seven walks (2.91 BB/9) and 36 Ks (14.95 K/9) in 21 2/3 IP over which he held right-handers to a .127 AVG and held lefties to a .190 AVG.
Williams talked on Sunday about whether or not he would have two left-handers in his bullpen at the start in 2014? "We'll look at it and see what our best club is," he said, "but ideally, everybody I think would like to have two lefties that they can manuever in and out of the game. So, we'll see how it goes."
In discussing other bullpen options this winter, Mike Rizzo brought up the possibility of 25-year-old, 2010 2nd Round pick Sammy Solis pitching out of the pen if the Nationals needed a left-hander this season. Solis returned from rehab following Tommy John surgery to make 13 appearances for the High-A Potomac Nationals last summer, posting a 3.43 ERA, a 3.48 FIP, 19 walks (2.97 BB/9) and 40 Ks (6.24 K/9) in 57 2/3 IP. The lefty then made his third trip to the Arizona Fall League where he was (5-2) in seven starts with a 2.17 ERA, a 2.48 FIP, seven walks (2.17 BB/9) and 29 Ks in 29 IP over which he had a 0.69 ERA against lefties.
So is he pitching for a spot on the Nationals' roster? Will he start in the system with a call-up a struggling pitcher away? Williams was asked about Solis too this afternoon.
"He's going to get an ample opportunity," Williams said. "We've got to build up his innings. So, we're working with [Pitching Coach Steve McCatty] on the guys and how many starts we're going to give them? How we can fit them all in? The good thing is we have multiple guys that can do that. That causes a problem sometimes with trying to get everybody innings. So that process is ongoing every day, but I'd like him to build up to a point where he can throw multiple innings if need be and he can start if need be. So we'd like to get him to that point."
"You have guys that come off of injury," Williams continued. "You have to make sure that they're ready to go. So, I want him to be 100% full go. We'll increase his innings and see where he ends up. Again, there are spots available and he's going to compete for one of them."
Though he said that ideally he would like to have two lefties in his pen, Williams wouldn't guarantee that there will be two lefties when he discussed the abundance of hard-throwing pitchers in camp on Sunday.
With the work Christian Garcia did in 2012, the 28-year-old put himself in the mix for a roster spot in 2013. There were plans to make his a starter to add depth before he suffered a partially torn tendon in his right forearm last Spring. A hamstring injury ended Garcia's attempt to return to the mound last season, but he's healthy and in camp throwing hard again.
"Looks fine to me," Williams told a reporter who asked about Garcia today. "And he's another one. The organization is full of guys that have fantastic stuff. And he's one of them. He had some tough luck over the last year or so, we have to see where he's at as well once he gets into games."
Will the right-handers in the Nationals' pen make the Nats go with one left-hander again at the start this season? Can Christian Garcia get back to where he was in 2012 after a rough year? Will Xavier Cedeno get his chance? Will Sammy Solis make his debut in 2014?
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