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The big questions about Nationals' reliever Jerry Blevins for 2015

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Washington Nationals' left-hander Jerry Blevins struggled against right-handed hitters in 2014 (.298/.398/.423), but dominated left-handed hitters, holding them to a combined .160/.202/.217 line. Will the Nats use him as a lefty specialist in 2015?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Blevins went (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 67 games and 60 innings pitched out of the Oakland A's bullpen in 2013, finishing his seventh major league campaign at +0.3 fWAR.

The Athletics traded the 30-going-on-31-year-old left-hander to the Washington Nationals last winter in exchange for minor league outfielder Billy Burns.

As Nats' GM Mike Rizzo explained it after the deal, the acquisition of Blevins gave the Nationals a left-handed option who, "... can pitch multiple outs, multiple innings. And a guy that's had success on a championship-caliber [club]."

"I think it's a lefty thing, we're a little bit different than most people." - Jerry Blevins in 2014 on his choice of jersey no.13, which he'll wear in D.C.

Blevins had a reverse split in his final season with the A's, with left-handed hitters putting up a .242/.299/.442 line against him and right-handers posting a combined .184/.267/.314 line. In 2014, however, that was reversed.

In 117 plate appearances, left-handed hitters put up a .160/.202/.217 line against Blevins in the regular season, while right-handed hitters posted a .298/.398/.423 line against the southpaw.

Blevins finished his first season in the Nationals' bullpen (2-3) with a 4.87 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 23 walks (3.61 BB/9) and 66 Ks (10.36 K/9) in 64 games and 57 ⅓ IP over which he was worth a career-best +0.7 fWAR.

He finished the season, with eight of nine scoreless appearances in September and 3 ⅓ scoreless innings on the mound in the NLDS.

Blevins told reporters this winter he was happy he finished strong and was able to show fans in the nation's capital what he's capable of doing.

"It was great for me personally to show the fans and show the people that I can pitch effectively on a consistent basis," Blevins said.

"When the lights are on and it's postseason and it really matters, that's where I like to shine and step up."

"When the lights are on and it's postseason and it really matters, that's where I like to shine and step up." - Jerry Blevins on finishing strong in his first season in D.C.

It was the left-hander's second postseason run after he threw 3 ⅔ scoreless with the A's in the ALDS in 2012.

Though there are big expectations for the Nationals this season, when he talked to reporters in December, Blevins said he wasn't thinking of it as an all-or-nothing campaign or a final shot with the current roster.

"That's not the sense that we have, or speaking for myself that I have, that it's the last attempt. I know we have a great roster and high expectations. Our talent level is incredible. We think we can win. Who knows how the roster shakes out, but we feel like we're competitive no matter what. Being here last year, I guess, that was only my first year with them so there's no sense of 'this is the last hurrah.'"

Blevins said then, in the second week of December, and after a trip to Japan with an MLB All-Star team, that he was already hard at work in preparation

"I like to throw more than most people do," he explained. "I guess it's being from cold weather living in Ohio. I like to ramp it up a lot more because I miss playing catch. This gave me about a week extra rest. I started throwing last week."

He wasn't, however, Blevins admitted, completely over the Nationals' quick exit from the postseason.

"I won't move past it until spring training," he said. "It's still heart breaking and I still feel like we should have won the World Series. It left a bitter taste in my mouth and I'm not sure I'll ever get over it. It just fuels your fire to get ready for next year."

Before Spring Training starts, however, there is one matter that needs to be resolved. Blevins' salary for 2015.

After last winter's trade, the left-hander and the Nationals avoided arbitration, agreeing on a 1-year/$1.675M deal.

This time around, the Nats and Blevins are reportedly $200,000 apart with the lefty reliever asking for $2.4M and the Nationals offering $2.2M.

Will they go to a hearing? Will the Nationals use Blevins as a long reliever facing righties and lefties again in 2015? Or will they use Blevins mostly a specialist? Doesn't that seem like Matt Thornton's role?

Will his numbers improve against right-handers? Even after his struggles last season, he has still held right-handers to a .249/.338/.391 line in his career (.212/.264/.330 vs LHB).