Right-hander Blake Treinen gained big-time experience this spring, getting into six spring training games with the Nationals, the most work he has received in March as a pro. He finished with a 4.66 ERA in 9 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, three walks and 15 hits allowed, and is currently listed on the Double-A Harrisburg roster.
Treinen was originally drafted in 2010 by the Marlins, but had his contract voided because of inflammation in his shoulder. He decided to go back to college for his fifth season and walked on at South Dakota State.
"At first, your biggest thing that goes through your head when you are young is, 'I should take the opportunity I have now because you never know what will happen the next year,' " Treinen remembered.
"Going back, I was frustrated because I thought that it would be a red flag on me because I failed my physical (with the inflammation). The more doctors that looked at it, they said everything was fine. I ended up playing that year with something to prove and I became a better pitcher because of it.
"That was my second year of playing college baseball and I had a lot to learn. I am still learning as a pitcher. I was able to get my college degree. It was a blessing in disguise. It worked out for the best. I am happy with the way things worked out."
Growing up in Wichita, Treinen knew that Wichita State had a good baseball program, but he was not recruited heavily by anybody coming out of high school. Prior to landing at South Dakota State, the 6-foot-5, 215-lbs., Treinen also attended the University of Arkansas and Baker University (Baldwin City, Kan.).
How his fastball velocity jumped
"That first year I had to redshirt due to NCAA rules. I pretty much lived in the weight room," Treinen said. "At Christmas, I think I tried to throw more than my body was able to sustain intensity-wise. So I had rotator cuff tendinitis and rehabbed it. When I came back, I hit 88-91 mph, which felt really good for me - the hardest I had ever thrown.
"That summer, I went and trained and played with the summer league Laramie (Wyo.) Colts where it is 7,200 feet elevation. There was a guy there that was huge into building arm strength through long toss. I worked with him all summer.
"I remember my first ballgame, I was like 90-93 mph. That was huge for me. Then that year, 2010, I remember I was always like 88-93, touched 94 mph. That was the first year I bumped it up and I noticed I had it in my body to do that.
"I could not tell you one way or another how it came about. Honestly, it is a God thing to me. (It) is the kind of thing I cannot take credit for. It blows my mind where it is coming from. I noticed my arm continually get stronger. It wasn't anything that I could control. I worked hard with the opportunities I was given and the rest is what it is."
Relationship with A.J. Cole
Treinen was drafted by the Oakland A's in the seventh round of the 2011 draft. He was acquired by the Nationals in January 2013 from the Athletics with A.J. Cole, part of the Michael Morse deal with Seattle. This was Cole's second go-round with the Nationals.
"Me and A.J., we talked a little bit in Oakland. He was the only person I knew coming over here," Treinen said. "I roomed with him last spring training. He got me familiar with the coaching staff and the front office. I had no idea who anyone was. He just kind of filled me in.
"From what I gathered, (A.J.) was more comfortable with this organization than he was in Oakland. And I am, too. I have nothing against that organization. I had great relationships with the pitching coaches I had there. I think for me, this is the best fit for my career."
Pitching coaches Paul Menhart and Chris Michalik
"I got comfortable with Paul Menhart right away," Treinen said. "Cole had nothing but great things to say about Menhart. I fully trusted my career with what Paul Menhart had to tell me. It was easy to do that because anything he told me, it just clicked.
"Next day, my curveball was flat. He said do this, I would do it. It would turn into the curveball I should be throwing every time. Maybe my fastball didn't have drive through the catcher. He said, 'You are pulling off the ball. Throw it through him.' It had that much more get-up on it.
"Little things like that made me so much more comfortable. Their throwing program translates a lot better with me as how I am as a pitcher. He is fantastic. He really knows how to relate to his players.
"That is not to take anything away from Chris Michalik. Michalik is a great guy, too. He definitely has pointed out some things to me."
Starter vs. Reliever
"I have been asked this a couple of times. I love both," Treinen said. "I love being a starter and coming out being the workhorse for your team, giving them long, quality innings.
"In the bullpen, it is fun to come in in the those big situations just to know you slam the door shut. I would be happy with whatever (they ask). Whatever I can do to give myself the best chance to play with the big league club, then I will do it. It doesn't matter to me if I start or I am the bullpen guy. I will do what I have to do."