Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was clear when he spoke to reporters this past Sunday that he expected more out of his relief corps.
Nationals’ relievers, as a group, started play on Tuesday with a 5.70 ERA, the highest in the National League, a 5.06 FIP, second-highest in the NL, 15 home runs allowed, the fourth-most, and a .270 BAA, which was the second-highest.
“The bullpen has been disappointing,” Rizzo acknowledged.
“They’ve got great stuff and they need to pitch better, they have the ability to do so, they’ve got the track record that they have done it and they need to do it.
“This is a performance business and it’s all about in-between the lines, and they need to pitch better and I think they will.”
“I trust them,” Rizzo continued, “and I believe in them and I will continue to believe in them because they’ve done it before and when you evaluate the bullpen their stuff is great and they need to pitch better.”
Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker took Tanner Roark to a career-high 125 pitches over six inning Tuesday night because he was short in the bullpen even after a day off.
“We didn’t want to bring in — we had Ollie Perez, he got up twice,” Baker explained.
“We didn’t want to get [Perez] up again, then we were short on our right side of the bullpen and so we didn’t like taking Tanner up that high in pitches,” but, he said, “... we were short in our bullpen.”
Baker turned to Blake Treinen after Roark’s night was over, and the struggling, 28-year-old right-hander, who started the season as the closer, but quickly lost the job, gave up a leadoff single, a hit-by-pitch and a one-out RBI single by Chris Owings that put the D-Backs up 5-3 in what ended up a 6-3 win.
It was the fifth outing in his last seven in which Treinen gave up a run, and he put two on in his second inning of work in the eighth before working out of trouble to keep it a two-run deficit for the Nationals before the Diamondbacks added to their lead when Jeremy Hazelbacker took Joe Blanton deep in the top of the ninth.
It was the fifth home run Blanton has allowed in 11 innings after he gave up just seven total in 80 IP in Los Angeles last season.
Baker was asked if he saw anything from Treinen that was causing trouble for the sinker-balling righty, who ended the night with an 8.25 ERA (11 ER in 12 IP) on the season.
“He’s throwing the ball hard,” Baker said, “but they’re hitting him, especially some guys that shouldn’t be hitting him.
“I’d like to see him pick up the pace, he’s very deliberate, and it looks like he’s thinking while he’s throwing versus just throwing and so we’ll address that tomorrow.”
Does he think Treinen’s lost confidence, something he said he feared might happen when he discussed the possibility of making the right-hander the closer during this Spring’s search for a ninth inning arm.
“I don’t think his confidence — I think he’s trying to think while he’s pitching,” Baker said.
“That’s what I think. I haven’t talked to him about it, but you think before you pitch and then when you pitch you just let it go.”
Is it hard to find spots to get Treinen work so he can figure out whatever it is that’s leading to his troubles?
“We have a few guys struggling, so we just have to keep on fighting, that’s the whole thing,” Baker said,“until we do figure this thing out.”