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Washington Nationals’ Kyle McGowin makes 2019 debut: Is he going to hang around in the bullpen?

Kyle McGowin has been starting at Triple-A, but he’s working out of the bullpen in the majors. Will he stick around a while?

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Kyle McGowin, 27, had a breakout season in his second campaign pitching in Washington’s organization in 2018, following a December 2016 trade that brought him to the Nationals from the Los Angeles Angels.

McGowin posted a 3.69 ERA and a 2.97 FIP, 19 walks (2.19 BB/9), and 94 Ks (10.85 K/9) in 13 starts and 78 innings pitched at Double-A Harrisburg, and a 1.20 ERA and 2.92 FIP, nine free passes (1.54 BB/9), and 44 Ks (7.52 K/9) in eight starts and 52 2⁄3 IP at Triple-A before he got the call to the majors to make his MLB debut last summer, leading MiLB with a 0.90 WHIP, and leading the Nationals’ Minor League system with 152 strikeouts.

”My mental game is night and day difference from last year,” McGowin told reporters when asked about the success he had in the minors after he was called up last September.

“I was dwelling on the negatives last year and this year I took the negatives and I turned them into positives,” he explained.

“And then my training this year was a lot different. I went and trained with a couple facilities, and I’d say that turned out and did wonders for me.”

Pitching at Triple-A Fresno in the Nationals’ system this season, the right-hander had a 4.32 ERA, a 4.28 FIP, 12 walks (2.59 BB/9), and 50 Ks (10.80 K/9) in eight starts and 41 23 innings before he got called back up to the majors this week.

“He’s been pitching well, really well,” Davey Martinez told reporters after McGowin got the call, “so apparently his slider has been really good, he’s been sinking his fastball, getting ahead, throwing a lot of strikes, so that’s kind of nice. He’s going to be in the bullpen just because of our usage lately in the bullpen, and then we’ll see where we are from there.”

Working mostly in relief when he came up last season, McGowin put up a 5.87 ERA, a 6.42 FIP, five walks (5.87 BB/9), and eight Ks (9.39 K/9) in five games (one start) and 7 23 IP last September.

“I started my whole life,” McGowin said. “Last September I was a reliever, so I have a little bit of knowledge there. Whatever they need me, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Asked for a scouting report for anyone who wasn’t familiar with his stuff, McGowin offered a report similar to what Martinez had to say.

“Probably my slider is my best pitch,” McGowin told reporters. “Sinker-baller, just try to throw strikes and get outs quick.”

Martinez called upon McGowin early in last night’s game, when Jeremy Hellickson struggled and was lifted after just three innings against the Chicago Cubs.

McGowin gave the Nationals three innings, over which he gave up three hits, a walk, and three runs, two earned, throwing 44 pitches to the 14 batters he faced.

His sinker averaged 92 MPH, and got up to 93, with his sinker sitting around 83-84 MPH.

“McGowin pitched really well as well, he gave up a couple of broken-bat hits, but he pitched well,” Martinez said.

How long will he hang around in the bullpen? Will he get a chance to start at some point with Hellickson struggling and Aníbal Sánchez injured?