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Nationals’ closer search: Blake Treinen to work at back of Nats’ bullpen... somewhere

In our latest video, we look at another candidate for the Nationals’ closer role. Will sinker-balling right-hander Blake Treinen claim the spot?

Washington Nationals’ Pitching Coach Mike Maddux told reporters this winter that he saw Blake Treinen make the transition from “puppy dog” to “bulldog” over the course of their first season together in 2016.

“He was a beast at the end of the year,” Maddux added.

Talking to reporters, including Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo at Spring Training earlier this month, Treinen admitted to having a bit of a bulldog mentality.

“People joke about that, about me being too much of a nice guy,” Treinen said. “But when I’m between the lines, I still know how to compete. There’s some dog in me.”

Treinen, now 28, finished the 2016 campaign with a 2.28 ERA, a 3.62 FIP, 31 walks (4.16 BB/9), 63 Ks (8.46 K/9) and a .220/.314/.333 line against in 67 innings.

He and Maddux also seemed to figure out how to handle left-handed hitters, after the sinker-balling righty struggled to retire lefties earlier in his career.

A year after left-handers put up a .336/.425/.509 line against him, Treinen held them to a .218/.348/.390 line in 2016.

Dusty Baker was asked last week where he thought Treinen would fit in at the back of the bullpen this season.

“Somewhere back there,” he said. “Treinen didn’t start off back there [in 2016]. Treinen started off — couldn’t get lefties out, that was the rep, and he didn’t, and he wasn’t in the beginning, and then — everybody is in that situation where you have to learn and he learned, and he ended up getting lefties out equal to righties.

“So is that fair to say that he’s a candidate for that situation or are we rushing him because you want to him evolve rather quickly?

“But you want to evolve and not destroy him. I’ve seen guys’ confidence get destroyed too, and so I’m going to call upon my past and what I’ve seen.”

Baker and his staff will make the ultimate decision, and there is no guarantee that the reliever who starts the season working the ninth will be there in October.

But Treinen is in the mix...