“Some on the staff were ready to take a plunge and anoint rookie Koda Glover the closer due to the belief he is fearless and has the perfect personality for that job,” Heyman wrote, citing anonymous sources.
“However, it appears the front office either over-ruled those who favored Glover or convinced them that they needed to go with the safer choice of Blake Treinen to close.”
Heyman quoted GM Mike Rizzo in the article, who told the reporter via text that it was a, “Total organizational call,” and, “All voices were heard.”
Rizzo discussed the process of deciding on Treinen as the closer this Spring at length during his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies last Wednesday.
“Dusty and I talked about it all winter and we made plans to go to Spring Training with a game plan in mind to try to vet out who we think is going to be it,” Rizzo explained.
“Treinen was one of the guys all along that we figured would get the job.
“I just think that Dusty, myself and Mike Maddux felt that it’s a good fit for us.
“He reminds us a lot of like a Jim Johnson, a closer that’s one pitch away from two outs all the time, so it allows for a little bit of margin of error there in the ninth inning.
“You get a seeing-eye single or a walk, you’re always one pitch away from getting two outs and he’s extinguished a lot of difficult situations last year when he was setting things up.
“He would pitch the seventh or eighth inning and come in real tough situations and got out of it, so I think that seasoned him a little bit for tough situations.”
“He’s new to relieving,” Rizzo continued. “So the last year and three-quarters was probably an apprenticeship for him, but he’s performed extremely well.
“I think he’s a guy that learned how to get lefties out because he had to. Mike Maddux and he worked hard on it and so to say we knew all along that he had the job? We felt that he was a guy that probably should be the closer, but wanted to go through the process and see what happened in Spring Training.”
Dusty Baker acknowledged that there could be growing pains for Treinen, after initially wondering if the Nationals were, “...rushing him because you want to him evolve rather quickly?”
“You want to evolve and not destroy him,” Baker said this Spring.
“I’ve seen guys’ confidence get destroyed too, and so I’m going to call upon my past and what I’ve seen.”
Baker told reporters after the decision that the Nationals would allow for Treinen to adjust to the new role.
“There’s going to be some stumbles,” Baker said, as quoted by Washington Times’ writer Todd Dybas.
“I don’t want him to think… you’re going to have to stumble quite a few times before we’re going to make a change.
“You’re just crazy [to keep them as closer] if they keep stumbling and it ain’t working.
“But, you can’t just have one stumble and get somebody else. How do you develop that?”
Treinen earned the save on Opening Day, recording two Ks in a scoreless frame against the Miami Marlins.
Baker was asked after that outing if Treinen had the personality for the role, and if the role actually suited him and was something he liked doing?
“We asked him that last day, we made up our minds and he said he would love the opportunity to close,” Baker said.
“He certainly has the stuff to, and I asked him how come he never stressed that or even mentioned it to us and he said it wasn’t his place to do it, you know what I mean. He’s an awfully nice guy with very good stuff on the mound and very respectful. A lot of guys would have been politicking for that, but he said he wanted it but only after we had asked him.”
“As he gets more and more saves he’s going to become more and more confident,” Baker added after Treinen gave up a run but earned his second save in two games against Miami in the season-opening series.
The next night, the right-hander came on with a runner on third and two out with a 3-2 lead after Sammy Solis put two on and got a double play. He gave up a game-tying hit and was charged with his first blown save.
Treinen earned his third save the next night in Philadelphia, but only after giving up two hits, a walk and two earned runs.
He followed that outing up with two scoreless appearances over which he walked two and gave up just one hit, but when he came on in a tie game against the Phillies on Sunday in D.C., he gave up a leadoff double and a run on a close play at home that put the Nationals behind before they won it on a walk-off home run by Bryce Harper in the bottom of the ninth.
Treinen threw 30 pitches and gave up a single and a walk before he was lifted in favor of Shawn Kelley, who ended the frame.
Treinen has three saves through twelve games, with a 6.00 ERA, 4.74 FIP, four walks (6.00 BB/9), seven Ks (10.50 K/9) and a .320/.414/.480 line against in six innings.
Baker was asked after Sunday’s win, if he had any thoughts about what was behind Treinen’s early-season struggles.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think it’s more concentration and trying too hard more than anything. I think he has confidence, it’s just when you throw that sinker, his ball runs in and out of the zone, which is his strong suit and I have been talking to him about throwing some four-seamers that he can control. He’s still learning. I’m hoping he’s a quick learner.”