Called up for the third time this season to start in place of DL'd left-hander Gio Gonzalez against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 22nd, Blake Treinen made four appearances total for the Washington Nationals, three of them starts, in his latest stint in the majors. The 25-year-old right-hander put up a 2.89 ERA in those outings, with eight walks and eight Ks in 18 ⅔ over which he held opposing hitters to a combined .235/.325/.309 line.
On the year, the 2011 7th Round pick acquired from the Oakland A's along with right-hander A.J. Cole and left-hander Ian Krol in the three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners, is (0-3) with a 2.08 ERA, a 3.05 FIP, 10 walks (2.97 BB/9) and 17 Ks (5.04 K/9) in 30 ⅓ IP.
Treinen told reporters after his outing last week in San Francisco that he struggled to command his fastball, but he gave up just five hits and two runs in 5 IP in which he threw 79 pitches, 49 for strikes and induced 10 groundouts.
In one of the more impressive sequences of the start, Treinen loaded the bases with no one out in the fifth, giving up a single and back-to-back walks in what was then a 2-1 game in the Giants' favor, before he struck Ehire Adrianza out, following up on a 95 mph sinker with a diving 2-2 change, and pulled a double play grounder out of the opposing pitcher, Tim Hudson, as he worked his way out of the jam he created.
"I had trouble commanding my fastball today," Treinen said after the start in AT&T Park. "Threw some changeups in big situations. I'm just happy to get out of that mess of an inning I got us in. If I command fastball a little better, maybe I go deeper in the game like a starter should. I just have to execute pitches better. Next time I'll be better at it."
"He's been doing anything we've asked him to do whether it's one inning out of the bullpen, multiple innings out of the bullpen, starting," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said. I still feel like he's a young starter. So, changeup is developing, breaking ball is developing. He's got a good sinker. So for him to get deeper and deeper into games is important, but I think he's done well."
Even when his command isn't there, Williams explained, the natural movement on his sinker allows Treinen to get outs.
"Power sinker will do that," Williams said. "That's his go-to pitch. It's mid-90s and sinking and he's one pitch away from a double play ball all the time. So that's good for him and that's one of his weapons he can use."
After that start, and after Gio Gonzalez completed his second rehab outing, Treinen was optioned back to Triple-A Syracuse, with left-hander Xavier Cedeno called up to pitch out of the pen until Gonzalez officially comes off the DL to pitch in the majors for the first time since May 18th when shoulder inflammation sidelined the lefty.
Gonzalez gave up two hits and one earned run in four innings in his second rehab start with the High-A Potomac Nationals, walking four and striking out seven. After the outing, Gonzalez declared himself ready to return.
"'I know I’m ready to be in there,'" he told reporters including the District Sport Page's Brian Skinnell. "'I’m ready to go. I’m ready to slot myself in there. My arm feels great. I’m ready to go up and do my part as the starting pitcher.'"
Before the series finale in St. Louis this weekend, Williams confirmed that Gonzalez will return on Wednesday for the second game of the Nationals' two-game set with the Houston Astros:
Tanner Roark says he's starting Tuesday, which means Gio Gonzalez's return from the DL would be Wednesday against the Astros.
— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) June 15, 2014
Gonzalez faced the Astros back on April 29th, in the start after he left an outing against the LA Angels early with shoulder tightness. Gonzalez showed no signs of any issue in Houston, striking out nine and giving up five hits and three runs in six innings of work in which he threw 111 pitches.
In nine starts before the first DL stint of his career, Gonzalez, 28, put up a 4.62 ERA, a 3.52 FIP, 20 walks (3.55 BB/9) and 53 Ks (9.41 K/9) in 50 ⅔.