Dusty Baker told reporters in Atlanta, GA last night, after Blake Treinen struggled in yet another save situation, that something had to change.
“We’ve got to do something to shore up our closer situation, because — I don’t know, this ain’t working,” Baker said.
“We’ve just got to remain confident and just go back to the drawing board.”
When he met with reporters this afternoon in SunTrust Park, Baker confirmed that Treinen will return to the set-up role he excelled in last season, while right-handers Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover will share the closing duties going forward.
Dusty said Glover and Kelley will split closing duties. Treinen will go back to last season's role.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) April 19, 2017
Dusty says he'll "mix and match" Kelley and Glover in 9th inning now. Treinen will return to setup/fireman role he thrived in last year.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) April 19, 2017
Between Kelley's injury history & Glover's inexperience Nats weren't ready to name one over other. But Dusty would prefer one to emerge— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) April 19, 2017
As noted above, Baker said that Kelley’s injury history (two Tommy Johns) and Glover’s inexperience led to the decision to split the closing duties, with the plan to have Kelley taking the save opportunities when he’s available with Glover filling in when Kelley is not as they continue to manage the veteran’s outings.
As MLB.com’s Jamal Collier noted, however, “Dusty would prefer one to emerge,” as he’s previously stated that he doesn’t think closer-by-committee situations really work.
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo too told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this morning that he assumed the Nationals would eventually settle on one reliever in the closer’s role.
“I see one guy eventually taking over. I certainly do. I think that’s going to shake out.
“I think we’re going to find the right recipe at the back end of games. We’ve got too many good talented players to not do that.”
In eight appearances and 6 1⁄3 innings pitched after he was named the closer at the end of Spring Training, Treinen earned three saves, but struggled, posting a 7.11 ERA, 5.59 FIP, six walks (8.53 BB/9), and seven Ks (9.95 K/9), with opposing hitters posting a .357/.471/.500 line against the 28-year-old right-hander.
Kelley, 32, posted a 2.64 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 11 walks (1.71 BB/9) and 80 Ks (12.41 K/9) in 58 IP in the first year of the 3-year/$15M deal he signed with the Nationals before 2016, holding opposing hitters to a .193/.232/.403 line.
In six innings this season, the right-hander has a 6.00 ERA, 7.40 FIP, two walks (3.00 BB/9), 9 Ks (13.50 K/9) and a .208/.269/.583 line against.
Glover, 24, has made just 26 appearances in the majors after rocketing through the Nats’ system following his selection in the 8th Round of the 2015 Draft.
In 25 1⁄3 IP thus far in the majors, the hard-throwing right-hander has a 4.62 ERA, a 4.12 FIP, eight walks (2.84 BB/9) and 20 Ks (7.11 K/9), though some of those numbers were inflated when he pitched with an injury (labrum tear in his hip) late last season before he was shut down.
He has held hitters to a combined .206/.274/.351. Baker did, however, note that Glover too is dealing with some minor injury issues as well.
The latest changes continue, a long drama filled search for a reliable ninth inning arm that began when Mark Melancon opted for free agency after the Nats acquired the veteran reliever from the Pittsburgh Pirates last July, after Jonathan Papelbon, who was acquired at the previous trade deadline, flamed out in the nation’s capital.
Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office pursued a number of high-end relievers via free agency and trades this winter, but came up short in their search for a closer and made the decision to find one from among their in-house options.