After he was roughed up in Syracuse to start the season, the Nationals decided to convert right-hander Collin Balester from a starter to a reliever.
So they sent Collin to extended spring training in Viera, Florida, where he has faced off against the Astros, Braves and Tigers, among other squads.
In his most recent outing, Balester told me he went two innings and allowed no runs.
“I felt my changeup was a lot better. The two-seam fastball and curveball were good. This experience will help me just let the ball go. I was trying to locate too much and just need to let it go.”
Balester has kept in touch with Nats pitcher Tyler Clippard and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brad Hennessey while he works out to return to Syracuse.
“I ask them questions about being a reliever - they have been starters and relievers, so they know the routine and what they need to do to make that transition,” Balester said. “I remember Clippard being pretty frustrated when he started to make the transition from starter to reliever and now look at him. He was going through the same kind of thing I was feeling. He couldn’t get through five innings. That is the kind of thing I want to do, to have the stuff and attitude like Clippard.
“He was frustrated. He felt like he was a starter. Clip was at Syracuse and he did everything they wanted him to do. That time really helped him. He may be a starter in the future again. It has made him a better pitcher period. It changes their outlooks. Throwing strikes instead of trying to do too much. You don’t need to rest all day to be able to pitch.”
Balester likes the aspect of getting to pitch every other day instead of waiting five days until your next start.
“As a reliever, you workout, you run and then you still pitch.”
Collin says making the transition to reliever has allowed him to focus on those two components that every pitcher tries to do: “throw strikes and get outs.”
Balester will work with minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams today and usually works a couple of innings for two games in a row and then gets two days off.