Sammy Solis became an important, relied-upon part of Dusty Baker’s bullpen in 2016, after impressing the Washington Nationals’ new manager in their first Spring Training together.
Solis, 28, did not make the Opening Day roster, but the 2010 2nd Round pick was called up early in the season and stuck around, putting up a 2.41 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 21 walks (4.61 BB/9), 47 Ks (10.32 K/9) and a .207/.314/.293 line against in 41 innings.
Solis was solid against lefties and righties, holding lefties to a .200/.273/.283 line and right-handed hitters to a .211/.340/.299 line, and he proved flexible, going multiple innings in nine of 37 appearances, or working one inning when needed.
He told reporters at Nationals’ Winterfest this month, when asked what he took away from the 2016 campaign, that after several seasons in which he dealt with a variety of injuries, he was just happy to show that he could pitch regularly in the majors.
“Coming into Spring Training this past season I was unsure if I would make the team,” Solis explained. “Didn’t make the team and got called up pretty quickly with [Matt] Belisle going down and then thankfully I established myself as a reliable reliever this season and that’s what I’m taking away from it.”
He did end up on the DL twice with a knee issue and a bout of shoulder inflammation.
Solis said he was focused this winter on doing what he could to prepare himself for the grind of a full season in the majors.
Asked where he saw room for improvement, he said that as always for him, it’s about health.
“I hate the DL. I don’t want to go on the DL and this season. I’m looking for — pole-to-pole is what we call it — where you can play straight through and no injuries and be a reliable guy.”
Solis said his training this winter was geared toward helping him become more durable.
“You work with our training staff and our strength staff to combat injuries as well as weaknesses and focus on strengths as well,” he said.
“So I’m working with [Strength and Conditioning Coach] Matt [Eiden] on correcting some things that he thinks will definitely help me stay healthy in the long run.”
When Solis returned from his second DL stint in September, Baker talked to reporters about why it was so important to get the left-hander back in the bullpen in time for the postseason, in spite of the fact that they had a surplus of arms late in the regular season.
“He’s the one lefty in the bullpen that can get righties and lefties out equally,” Baker said.
“So that’s big where you don’t have to change pitchers, and we’re not going to have all these pitchers when we get to the postseason.”
Solis said he was happy that he ended up being one of the relievers Baker turned to in tough spots.
“I want to be that guy. I think that everyone does, you want to be the guy that is the first one called when we get into a jam. And towards the end of the season especially and into the playoffs it seemed like it was between a few guys and I was one of them which was very exciting and hopefully I can carry that into next season.”