Sammy Solis dealt with injury issues again in 2017. Solis, 29, missed two and a half months on the Disabled List with nerve irritation in his left elbow, returned to the majors too soon early in July, then came back up again later in the month, putting together decent numbers after he returned to the Washington Nationals’ bullpen, (2.41 ERA, 8 BB, 22 Ks, .125/.222/.172 line against in 18 2⁄3 IP down the stretch).
It was a frustrating season for the 2010 Nationals’ second round pick, who was charged with what ended up being the winning run in Game 5 of the Nationals’ NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs.
“Unfortunately I had been through it the year before, same kind of deal,” Solis said of pitching in back-to-back NLDS Game 5 losses in each of the last two seasons.
“It was not enjoyable, obviously. It’s tough to play with a team and get as close as we did and then after one game it’s over, we all give each other hugs, pats on the back and say we’ll get’em next year and that’s it, everyone’s out. So it’s never fun, but it kind of lights a fire underneath you to get better for the next season. I think that we’re going to come in just as strong if not stronger this season.”
This past season’s NLDS loss, Solis acknowledged, was particularly tough.
“We matched up well against them I think,” Solis said, referring to the Cubs.
“It’s just a matter of one run in one game and one play and it just didn’t roll our way this time, and two years in a row it’s tough to lose in a Game 5, especially at home.
“I think our fans were hungry for it and we were hungry for it, and it just didn’t happen, it made it tough.”
Looking back on hi season as a whole, Solis said he was, “... good when I was good, and bad when I was bad.”
“Obviously it was very difficult with the nerve,” he explained.
“It’s tough to really describe to people what it’s like to go out there trying to throw as hard as you can and it’s 7-8 mph slower than it should be and trying to be effective with that at the highest level in the world.
“But no excuses, I’ve got to go out there and pitch better this coming season and stay healthy.
“Last season was definitely a learning process and I’m just thankful to the Nats for sticking with me, because they did, and, you know, a couple bumps in the road in the playoffs, but I think when I was healthy I was able to compete and compete with the best.”
Solis said he is healthy now, finally 100% again, and throwing already in Arizona, where he lives in the offseason.
Asked if he’s made any changes to his offseason training this winter, the lefty said he was changing the focus of his workouts some.
“Definitely more therapy,” Solis said.
“Obviously the strength and conditioning side of it is important, but this year we’re being a little more proactive with my therapy, so not only am I lifting a couple hours a day, but then I have an hour to two hours of physical therapy after that, so we’re just making sure we can kind of pull out all the stops on that and make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo has talked this winter about being comfortable with Solis and the other left-handers expected to play a role in the major league bullpen in 2018, but Solis said he’s going into what will be his fourth big league campaign knowing there are new coaches and a new manager he has to prove himself to, though he said he is sure new skipper Dave Martinez at least knows who he is.
“With Dusty [Baker] coming in he had never even seen me play,” Solis said.
“He didn’t know who I was at all, so — you know what I mean, you can’t blame him for it. It is a little different this year because Dave [Martinez] has seen me play and I had some success against the Cubs last season, especially during the regular season, so we’ve gotten a little familiar with each other, we talked on the phone after we signed him and caught up a little bit, but obviously it’s a whole new experience coming into camp with a new coaching staff, so I have to be not only effective, but I’ve got to prove that I can continue to be effective all season.”