Injuries and poor performances from left-handed pitching have left the Nats scuffling a bit to fill a hole in their bullpen. The Nationals called up Felipe Rivero last week, but he was only able to make one appearance before he went down with an injury.
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In that one appearance, he went one inning and gave up one run. But, he has taken a back seat to Matt Thornton in lefty relief spots since his call up.
Rivero has a GI-track bleed and the Nats placed him on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 18.
With a 25-man spot open, the Nats recalled Matt Grace from triple-A Syracuse. Washington drafted Grace in the 8th round out of UCLA in 2010. He has worked his way up the Nats system the past four seasons. He broke out in 2014, going 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA over 50 games between double-A Harrisburg and triple-A.
Grace relies on a heavy sinker to produce ground ball outs, thus keep his ERA low, which has seemed to earn him this call up. Last year, his ground ball rate was 69 percent. He was able to strike out 62 over 72 innings of work. The Nationals attempted to use Grace as a starter our of college, but they quickly switched him to a relief role, where he flourished.
He now becomes the third reliever, outside of Matt Thornton, who will attempt to plug the left-handed relief specialist role for the Nats.
The only real weakness on this Washington Nationals’ team is the back end of their bullpen. The Nationals have some established names like Tanner Roark and Drew Storen to call upon, but injuries to Craig Stammen and Casey Janssen means, for now, the club will depend on the youth in their bullpen to deliver.
Blake Treinen has the stuff for the big league level, but he needs to keep the ball down and improve his control to become a reliable reliever. Felipe Rivero is also very young and an unproven addition as is Rafael Martin – his ridiculous strike-out rate notwithstanding.
But, as we profiled here at District on Deck, youth may not be a bad thing. However, someone has to step up and perform to pick up the great starts by this excellent starting rotation for the Nationals to have a successful 2015 season and any type of deep run into the playoffs.
Grace made his major league debut against the St. Louis Cardinals and pitched a scoreless inning last night; a welcome sign for the Nationals. Let’s see if he can be the needed fill for the Nats bullpen.