With spots available, Jeff Mandel could make big move this season

Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs reliever Jeff Mandel ended the 2011 season with a couple of rough outings, but that does not change the destination the Nationals believe the former Baylor Bear is heading within the organization.

With the Chiefs, the 26-year old Mandel pitched in 43 games last season, going 4-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 54 1/3 innings. In five games at Double-A Harrisburg Senators, Mandel notched a 2.25 ERA.

Again, his importance to the Nationals in Syracuse is spotlighted this season with the trades of three pitchers and the loss of Brad Meyers to the Yankees via the Rule 5 draft.

Former Senators pitching coach Randy Tomlin said Mandel was one of the pitchers that jumped out to him last season because of two lethal offerings.

"One guy that was and is knocking on the door is Jeff Mandel," Tomlin said. "Jeff was pretty much most of the season working towards getting the call (to the big leagues) because he was really good with his power sinker. He just pounds the sinker. He was also starting to get a little bit better depth and consistency with his curveball."

And that is the most critical step for almost every minor leaguer searching for the answer to making it to the majors. You have to be able to pitch well day in and day out and in many different situations.

"With him as well, it is his consistency," Tomlin said. "It is certainly what you got to have in the big leagues. You got to have guys you can rely on to do that and I think he is (close). Hopefully, he comes down (to Florida) and says he is ready for (the challenge)."

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