The Washington Nationals reliever has delivered four good appearances in a row. Has Blake Treinen solved his problems? Signs point to yes.
Named closer coming out of Spring Training, Treinen recorded three saves in four opportunities before losing his confidence and grinding to a complete halt when runners reached. His inability to throw strikes lead to 10 walks in 13-plus innings as of May 7.
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The losing pitcher that game to the Philadelphia Phillies, his ERA skyrocketed to 9.22. What promised to be an exciting 2017 robbed Treinen of his abilities. Sinkers would not sink and fastballs missed the zone. In his eyes, you saw pain and confusion.
If the bullpen was average, Treinen should have received the same treatment as Joe Ross. Spend a couple weeks in the minors and sort things out. Average is several steps above the ability of the Nats pen.
Treinen, melting down in public, had to right his own ship with Washington. A look at his last four games gives signs he is.
Pitching twice against the Baltimore Orioles and, after five days rest, back-to-back in Pittsburgh versus the Pirates, Treinen has not thrown a walk. Of his last 54 pitches, 41 were strikes. He allowed a run in the second Oriole game, but that is it. A single run over 4.2 frames with six strikeouts.
The sinker is back. The fastball regaining bite. In his last four games, Treinen scattered three hits and dropped the season ERA to 7.36. Tuesday against the Pirates, all six pitches were strikes.
Things are looking up. And, boy, the Nats need him.
Although likely—you never know—out of the running for closer again, a healthy Treinen can play the role of fireman. Because he can pound the strike zone and induce double play balls, he can get Washington out of jams. Able to bridge the gap between the excellent starters and the two-headed closer machine of Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.
As Matt Albers and Jacob Turner continue to do yeoman’s work out of the pen, Albers appears nearly every game while Turner is moonlighting as the fifth starter. Joe Blanton, ineffective so far, is on the disabled list. If Treinen is out of his funk, watch out.
Better pitching from Treinen does not solve the Nats bullpen quandary, but it gives the front office an easier job deciding which role they can fill with a trade. When you add the raw Enny Romero to the mix, the Nats have three pitchers with closer stuff.
Because they lead the National League East by a healthy margin, there is time to find a closer in house without shopping around prospects. If Treinen has turned the corner that is a major step forward.