While reports last week suggested that hard-throwing 23-year-old reliever Koda Glover was the frontrunner for the Washington Nationals’ open closer job, Dusty Baker announced this morning that the Nats will actually turn to 28-year-old sinker-balling right-hander Blake Treinen.
Baker told reporters earlier this week that there was an ongoing debate in the Nationals’ front office as they tried to decide which reliever to turn to after trying and ultimately failing to land a high-end closer via free agency or trade this winter.
GM Mike Rizzo explained in an MLB Network Radio interview last week that the Nats decided to choose from among their in-house options early this winter after missing out on their top targets.
Treinen is coming off a 2016 campaign in which he posted 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.
Working with pitching coach Mike Maddux, the right-hander also managed to improve on his big weakness from previous seasons.
A year after left-handers put up a .336/.425/.509 line against him, Treinen held lefties to a .218/.348/.390 line in 2016.
Baker said early this winter that he was taking a cautious approach to deciding what role Treinen would fill in the ‘pen this year, though the righty was clearly in the running for the role.
“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?” Baker asked.
“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.”
What Baker and the Nationals saw this Spring, with Treinen tossing 4 2⁄3 scoreless, striking out eight and holding opposing hitters to a .063 AVG, apparently convinced them that Treinen was ready for the gig.
Dusty said there was hesitance to go with Glover because of lack of experience. But when asked if he's making team: "Oh, hell yeah."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 30, 2017
Dusty admitted temptation to keep Treinen in "fireman" role escaping jams, but believes power sinker is valuable in 9th (i.e. Zach Britton).— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 30, 2017
Dusty said the Nationals also considered Glover, but seemed durability and Treinen's sinker were decisive factors.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) March 30, 2017
Baker cited Treinen's power sinker and the fact that he figured it out against lefties as key factors.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) March 30, 2017
#Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has envisioned Treinen as a closer for several years. It all depended on his mental mound development. https://t.co/PJt49VMKvL— thom loverro (@thomloverro) March 30, 2017