In his final season in Oakland, lefty reliever Jerry Blevins was (5-0) with a 3.15 ERA, a 3.88 FIP, 17 walks (2.55 BB/9) and 52 Ks (7.80 K/9) in 60 innings pitched out of the A's 'pen, finishing his seventh major league campaign at +0.3 fWAR. He explained this winter that he started to think he might be traded toward the end of his seventh season with the Athletics, who acquired him from Chicago in a July 2007 trade that sent catcher Jason Kendall to the Cubs.
"I saw how I didn't pitch at all in the playoffs," Blevins explained, "and there [were] a few situations where normally that would be my position. But you never speculate. You start doing that, you start questioning what's going on and you can get caught up in a lot of different stuff. But you're prepared for anything as a baseball player. You understand that there is a business to it as well. And if you do get traded, you couldn't ask for a better spot to be traded to."
Washington acquired Blevins this winter in a trade that sent 2013 Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year Billy Burns to the A's.
In his first month in the Nats' pen, the 6'6'' southpaw posted a 3.55 ERA, a 2.79 FIP, five walks (3.55 BB/9) and 16 Ks (11.37 K/9) in 12 ⅔ IP, holding opposing hitters to a .225/.296/.354 line.
In May, the left-hander put up a 5.19 ERA and a 2.41 FIP with four walks (4.15 BB/9) and nine Ks (9.35 K/9) in 8 ⅔ IP, though he held hitters to a .188/.286/.258 line.
In 7 ⅓ IP in June, however, Blevins has an 8.59 ERA, a 4.60 FIP, seven walks (8.59 BB/9) and five Ks (6.14 K/9), with opposing hitters putting up a .286/.429/.393 line.
Blevins has allowed runs in four of his last five outings, giving up seven hits, seven walks and seven runs in his last 4 ⅓ innings of work (14.54 ERA), with hitters putting up a .358/.560/.556 line against the left-hander over that stretch.
An April 20th outing against Atlanta started with a scoreless 12-pitch, 12th inning in which he retired the Braves in order, but when he came back out for a second inning of work, Blevins issued a walk to Justin Upton and back-to-back singles by Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis, with Gattis' hit driving Upton in to break up a 4-4 tie.
The Nationals decided to walk Chris Johnson in the next at bat to set up a double play opportunity and Blevins got the grounder he wanted, only to have Danny Espinosa bobble the ball and settle for a force at second while another run scored.
"He got the double play ball," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after the game, "could have kept it at one. Freddie put together a really good at bat, got to 3-2 and grounded a ball with the runner going. Jerry made his pitch, it just happened to be in the hole. I thought he did okay. Gattis got the base hit but then we were able to get a grounder to potentially turn two and it didn't happen."
Blevins struck Jordan Schafer out for the second time in two at bats to end his outing, but the damage was done and the Braves ended up winning the game, 6-4.
It took Blevins 21 pitches to get through a scoreless inning of work in Milwaukee in which he walked two batters.
Last time out, however, in Friday night's game with the Cubs in Wrigley Field, the left-hander gave up a leadoff double, two walks (one intentional) and a two-out bases-clearing two-base hit by John Baker, who turned a close 4-2 game into a 7-2 one with one swing. Blevins was lifted, having thrown 26 pitches and recorded just two outs.
"I think today it was curveball command," Williams said afterwards. "He really didn't throw his curveball where he wanted today and certainly against left-handers that's the matchup we want there. And he's the guy to do it.
"Today he didn't have the curveball and he had to go with fastballs today. With the exception of the last pitch, the last pitch was a curveball that [Baker] pulled down the line, but the curveball wasn't quite there for him."
Blevins told reporters after the outing against the Cubs that he watched some film and spotted a problem he thinks will help him turn things around.
"I see a couple of little variations that I can make," he explained, "and I feel like I'm just one little tweak away from getting right back on track."
"Is it something mechanical?" a reporter asked.
"Yeah," Blevins said with a smile. "I'm not going to tell you what it is though."
"Not throwing strikes, that's the no.1 key," Blevins continued, "so when you're missing the strike zone and falling behind not much good is going to come of that."
Through 35 games in his first season with the Nationals, Blevins has a 5.34 ERA, a 3.14 FIP, 16 walks (5.02 BB/9) and 30 Ks (9.42 K/9) in 28 ⅔ IP.
With Ross Detwiler suddenly retiring batters after struggling to start the season, will Williams turn to Detwiler next time there are a few tough lefties coming up?