Dusty Baker told reporters last Saturday, after the final cuts of the Spring were announced, that the decision to send Matt den Dekker to Triple-A Syracuse was a difficult one to make after the 28-year-old veteran outfielder went 12 for 40, (.300/.370/.450) with two doubles and two triples in 21 games.
"One of the tougher decisions, was [Matt den Dekker]," Baker said.
"We had so many -- this is kind of strange, you never feel that you have too many left-handed bats, that's what everybody is looking for -- I urged him to go down and play effectively and you never know what's going to happen.
"I think this guy is big league ready, but this is what happens when you have a good team."
Late Wednesday afternoon, den Dekker was in Syracuse, taking batting practice when he got the call that he was being called up, after Ben Revere landed on the 15-Day DL with a right oblique strain.
den Dekker got on a plane to Atlanta, arrived during the fifth inning and was called upon to pinch hit for starter Stephen Strasburg with two on and two out in a 1-1 game in the seventh.
den Dekker went down for a 93 mph fastball from Bud Norris and sent it to the base of the wall in right-center, driving in two runs to put the Nationals ahead in what ended up a 3-1 win.
"He just got off the plane and came through for us," Baker told reporters after the game.
"That was, man, that was something. I actually, just in case they were going to change pitchers, cause they had a couple guys warming up, they had a lefty and a righty -- I told [Chris] Heisey, but then they let [Norris] face den Dekker.
"Fortunately for us, he came through with a big, big, big hit. I mean, that was huge."
Norris allowed just three hits through the first six innings, but the Nationals doubled their hit total in the seventh and scored three runs off the veteran right-hander then handed the lead den Dekker provided to their bullpen.
Baker was asked what it was that he liked about den Dekker, who was acquired before last season in a deal that sent reliever Jerry Blevins to the New York Mets.
"I don't know," he said. "Just -- he's a ballplayer. He can run, he can throw, he can hit. He doesn't cause any problems, he keeps his mouth shut, he stays ready.
"And just like tonight, he gets off the plane and helps us. I told him he'd be back, but I didn't know it would be this soon. But these are the kind of guys that we have on this team. And everybody was genuinely happy for him."
Even the players who didn't get the pinch hit opportunity were happy, Baker said, because den Dekker came through with what ended up being the biggest hit of the game.
A day that started for den Dekker in upstate New York, ended in Atlanta, where he boarded the team plane bound for Washington, D.C. and the Nationals' home opener with the Miami Marlins tomorrow afternoon.