The Nationals recalled 24-year-old right-hander Collin Balester from Triple-A Syracuse to replace Todd Coffey. Coffey has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left calf strain.
Balester has thrown five scoreless innings of relief for Syracuse this season. In his most recent outing last Monday at Lehigh Valley (Phillies), Balester allowed one hit over two innings with three strikeouts.
Last year he was very impressive in 17 appearances, averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings and sporting a 2.57 ERA, completing his transition from starter to reliever.
He is 4-12 with a 5.25 ERA in 39 career games/22 starts spanning three seasons (2008-10) with Washington.
Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty says Balester is a different pitcher as he joins the team again in 2011. He feels Balester has gained a maturity about his game that will help him in his pitching.
“Bally is starting to grow up,” McCatty said. “I have been around him for three, four, five or six years. A lot of times I told him, ‘my kids are more mature than you are.’ He knows it. We don’t have the usual pitching coach relationship. We have more of a father-son relationship because I would yell at him all the time.”
McCatty said the difference is not how fast he works on the mound but how he operates while calming down his tempo.
“He has learned how to control situations,” McCatty continued. “You slow the game down, it doesn’t mean the pace you work at, but in your brain of what you want to do. You learn how to pitch. What is he 23, 24 years old. He is still a young kid.”
“He has got great stuff. But that is what he has learned. It might take him three years to learn it and a lot of headaches for me, but that is what Bally is finally getting.”
McCatty feels that coming in for short stints as a relief pitcher is much better for the personality and psyche of Balester, versus getting ready for long stretches as a starter.
“I think being in the bullpen is a perfect place for him right now,” McCatty said. “Because Bally’s mind races a little bit. For him sitting their for four days and waiting to pitch is like cutting open an old golf ball with all the rubber bands just exploding out of it. That is what you would get off of him sometimes. He has grown up. He has done great.”