On Wednesday, with a threat of rain, the Nats decided to keep Max Scherzer back in Viera to face minor leaguers for his last tune-up before opening day. That meant an appearance for "Johnny Wholestaff" on the mound for the Nats.
It wasn't the worst possibility, as manager Dusty Baker still needs to finalize his bullpen and sort out roles for some of its members.
"We didn't want to keep the whole bullpen back there to throw there," Baker told the media. "They certainly needed some work here, because of the rainouts. We decided it would be better to throw Max back there in a simulated game, and we'll do a bullpen game here."
We can assume six locks as this point on an assumed seven-man* pen. Closer Jonathan Papelbon, set-up Shawn Kelley, lefty set-up Felipe Rivero, lefty specialist Oliver Perez, token veteran righty Matt Belisle and swing-man Yusmeiro Petit.
(*The Nats may very well hide Joe Ross in the minors until the second week of the season when a fifth starter is necessary and carry eight on opening day.)
That leaves Trevor Gott, Blake Treinen,
Nick Masset and Sean Burnett slugging it out for the last one-two spots. The fun part is that they ALL pitched on Wednesday so we can go through each performance with a fine-toothed comb if we wanted.
But we don't need to.
Burnett has made this team, they just need to work his contract out. He's given up six hits and a walk with no runs and five strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings this spring. He's shown he can get guys out with pinpoint control on a now-88 mph fastball. Baker wants three lefties.
That leaves Gott and Treinen for one spot.
They both throw hard. They both have had periods of dominance. They both lack a quality third pitch making them vulnerable, especially to left-handed hitters. Both have bouts where their command escapes them. Treinen is 27, Gott 23.
Gott got the start on Wednesday and went two innings. He gave up three hits and a walk without a run, but was aided by two double-plays, one an 8-2 variety. Meanwhile, Treinen faced two right-handed batters, retired them on four pitches, and was lifted for a lefty-lefty matchup...in the middle of the fifth inning.
Reading tea leaves, Treinen was in a game-type situation and got his job done. Gott -- a short reliever -- was asked to pitch two innings at the start of the last Florida spring training game. My bet is Gott starts the year in chilly Syracuse while Treinen gets to soak up the sun in the Nats right field bullpen when the games start to count.
(eds. note: Previous version of this post omitted Petit, who's obviously made the team, and Masset, who's already been reassigned. We apologize for the error.)