Veteran skipper Dusty Baker took a lot of time getting to know his new team in his first Spring Training as the Washington Nationals' manager.
Even late this Spring, however, he wasn't ready to commit to specific roles for the relievers who were going to be on the 25-Man roster on Opening Day.
"You've got to remember, I haven't seen [Felipe] Rivero in real action," Baker explained.
"I've seen [Jonathan] Papelbon, but I haven't seen Rivero, I haven't seen [Blake] Treinen. I haven't seen a number of these guys in real time, in real action.
"Which guys are going to walk the first guy? Which guys love pressure. Which guys are better starting the inning off and which guys are terrible with runners inherited and which guys relish the situation of runners inherited? You've got to find some of that out in action.
"Like I said, I know everybody wants definitive answers, but I can't give it to you right now on ... what's today, March 24th?"
A little over a week later, the Nationals made their final roster decisions, locking in their Opening Day bullpen arms, and in the first game of the season on Monday, after Max Scherzer's seven innings on the mound, Baker gave everyone the first glimpse hints of how he might line things up going forward.
With the score tied at 2-2, Baker turned to Rivero in the bottom of the eighth in Atlanta's Turner Field.
The velocity was there for the 24-year-old reliever, who averaged 95.5 mph with his fastball last season and sat at an average of 95.7 mph against the Braves, but the command was off as he struck out the first batter he faced, but then walked Jeff Francoeur, allowed a single by Ender Enciarte and then, one out later, hit Freddie Freeman to load them up with two down.
With right-handed hitting Braves' third baseman Adonis Garcia due up, Baker went to the 'pen again for right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley.
He was asked after what ended up a 4-3 win, if he considered leaving Rivero in to face the righty?
"No, because I left him in there before," he explained. "He faced righties before. He wasn't that sharp."
"The one pitch was supposed to be a slider away for Freddie Freeman, the dangerous Freddie Freeman and he crossed [Ramos up with a fastball].
"And then the pitch on Freddie was supposed to be a fastball away and it came up and in and hit him. That showed me he was missing by a foot or so, a couple feet. So that was enough.
"We feel comfortable and confident putting everybody we have on our team in the game."
Baker and Co. on the Nats' coaching staff couldn't have been too comfortable with what they saw from Kelley either, as he came on with the bases loaded and two out and issued a four-pitch walk, forcing in the go-ahead run while throwing balls in the dirt and firing ball four through catcher Wilson Ramos and all the way to the backstop.
Was Kelley a little too fired up? Or nervous?
"I don't know," Baker said. "I mean, he's been in that situation many, many times. And he was just throwing them in the dirt. We have all these stats and this guy only, I think in his career, or in the last few years, only 10% of his runners inherited have scored and that's the lowest on our team and that's why we brought him in in that situation. But I mean, sometimes, as you see, the stats don't follow suit."
It didn't start well for Blake Treinen in the bottom of the ninth either, after the Nationals rallied to tie it up in the top of the frame.
Treinen walked leadoff hitter Kelly Johnson, but got a double play grounder out of A.J. Pierzynski, thanks in part to a well-positioned Danny Espinosa, then struck Gordon Beckham out to end the inning.
Treinen got a visit on the mound from Ramos and Nats' second baseman Daniel Murphy after he started behind 1-0 on Pierzynski following the walk, and one pitch later, got two outs with one pitch on the DP grounder.
Baker liked the fact that Ramos went out to settle Treinen down.
"That's what Ramos is supposed to do. That's what I urged him to do. Be the field general. We shouldn't have to go to the mound all the time. Sometimes Danny goes to the mound. Sometimes [Ryan Zimmerman] goes to the mound. I saw Murph go to the mound and that time he went to the mound.
"But that's that thing about that sinker," he said, returning to Treinen's biggest weapon.
"You can get in trouble and pitch yourself right out because that's the best pitch to get two outs with one pitch, in baseball. And that's what happened for us."
After rallying to tie it up at 3-3 in the ninth when Braves' closer Jason Grilli blew his first save opportunity of the season, the Nationals took advantage of an error by Beckham in the tenth to push a run across in what ended up a 4-3 win.
Papelbon handled the bottom of the tenth, retiring the side in order in a quick, nine-pitch, six-strike frame, earning his first save of the season.
So were there hints to how Baker will line things up going forward in his usage in the season opener?
Will Rivero, Kelley and Treinen be the primary set-up men for Papelbon, with Oliver Perez, who struck Nick Markakis out to end the eighth, as the LOOGY and Matt Belisle and Yusmeiro Petit handling long relief?