Koda Glover is out on a rehab assignment with the Double-A Harrisburg Senators and Dusty Baker told reporters yesterday that the hard-throwing right-hander left for the rehab assignment saying, “... he will see us next week or before that.”
Shawn Kelley, according to Dusty Baker, is, “feeling real good,” and, “... eligible to come off [the DL] Friday or Saturday, something like that.”
Sammy Solis’s immediate future (nerve inflammation in his left elbow), is something of a question mark.
Solis stayed behind in D.C. to work with trainers and instructors while the Nats went on the road to Philadelphia and Baltimore.
“A nerve takes a lot longer to heal than if he had a muscle of something,” Baker said on Monday, but they’ll see what sort of progress he made once they got back.
Meanwhile, the relievers they do have, have struggled, giving up two late leads in the two of the last three games, once again raising questions about whether changes are coming or have to be made.
Sunday it was Matt Grace (4 H, 2 ER in 1 2⁄3 IP) and Matt Albers (game-tying, three-run HR) who let the Nationals’ 5-2 lead evaporate in Sunday’s finale in Citizens Bank Park, which ended up a loss in extras.
Last night it was Enny Romero with a blown save in the botto of the ninth, after Max Scherzer put together another masterful start in what ended up an extra innings loss in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Baker acknowledged after the third straight loss overall last night, that these late-game losses and bullpen issues take their toll on the whole team.
“It takes a big emotional toll,” he said. “One of the biggest downers in baseball is when you blow a game late, and especially when you have a lead like that a couple times this week. It’s certainly tested my team’s emotional strength and stability, and we’ll just see how we come out of this.”
That said, and as GM Mike Rizzo noted in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C. this morning, the names above: Grace, Albers and Romero, are not the ones the Nationals expected to be counting on to close out games early this season.
Romero has impressed at times, averaging 97.8 mph with his fastball and pumping it up to triple digits with regularity, topping out at 101.5.
But as Baker said last night, it’s not the fastball that’s an issue with the left-hander.
“Not getting his secondary pitches over,” Baker said. “They kind of know what’s coming. So he’s got to work on — much like [Aroldis] Chapman had to do, start throwing sliders and getting his breaking balls over, to get them off the fastball.”
Of course, if Blake Treinen had succeeded in the closer’s role he earned this Spring, or Kelley or Glover, the next two in line when Treinen struggled, had been able to seize the opportunity, and were not injured right now, Romero would probably not be asked to close out games.
There’s no way around it, however, and Rizzo was clear about that this morning when he was asked about the bullpen’s performance.
He appeared to be prepared for the question.
“Been bad,” Rizzo acknowledged. “They’ve been bad. Last in the league. We’ve got the best record in the National League and our bullpen has been the worst in the National League, so yeah, you’ve got to own it that they haven’t pitched well. How do you fix it is the question that were trying to answer and I think that first and foremost, I think you have to get your three best relievers healthy.
“You open the season with Kelley, Glover and Solis on the Disabled List, it’s tough.
“Now you’re depending on players and relievers that you didn’t quite want to rely on this early in the season and you can see the result, we’re paying for it.
“Kelley and Glover are very, very close to returning. I think that will be a big shot in the arm for these guys. I think we establish some consistent roles in the bullpen.
“I’ve got to trust the track record and the stuff and past performance of these guys to believe that there are better days coming.
“Do you trust Joe Blanton’s 80 games with a 2.48 ERA last season or his 12 games with a 9.75?
“Or Treinen’s last three years: 2.49 ERA, 3.86 ERA, 2.28 ERA last year in 73 games?
“Kelley has been 2.45, 2.64 the last two years, he’s got a 5.40 this year.”
“I think you have to believe in the process, I believe you have to trust your eyes that their stuff is good. I think you have to trust their track record. I believe in these guys.
“I still believe that when these guys are healthy this is a very, very good bullpen that can help us win a lot of games, and I’m not getting off that until they prove me wrong.”
“The problem is,” Rizzo added, “I think I may have more confidence in the bullpen then the bullpen has confidence in themselves. So that’s got to change. We’ve got to figure this thing out, we’ve got to do things that put them in a position to succeed, and then it’s on the players.”
While the Nationals are hearing it from fans and pundits who saw the bullpen as an issue before a single pitch was thrown this season, Rizzo said it’s still too early to do anything rash or make judgements on what they have on the roster.
“We want to see our bullpen get back healthy, see what we’ve got. We usually evaluate these things after the first 50-60 games, we really know what type of team we have and then as the trade deadline nears, that’s when you make some adjustments on parts of the team that you think need adjusting. I think it’s way too early to make any snap judgements.”
So... every Nationals fan is probably wondering, does that mean the Nationals are not in the market for relief help RIGHT NOW!!?!?!?!!
“I will say that, yes. We’re not actively out in the trade market looking for bullpen help right now,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“We’re going to trust that once we get our guys back we’ll evaluate where we’re at and we’ll see if things improve. If they don’t then we’ll have to make other adjustments and we’ve never been afraid to make moves during the season before and we won’t again.”