Manager Matt Williams said left-hander Matt Thornton is “ready, willing and able,” and is in “midseason form,” making him available to pitch tonight.
“He’s excited to be here,” Williams said. “He’s excited to be on a team that is in first place, vying for a division title. He’s ready and willing to pitch whenever we want him to pitch.”
Now the Nationals have three left-handers in the bullpen. Thornton, Jerry Blevins and Ross Detwiler provide a luxury of choice for Williams and pitching coach Steve McCatty when deciding on match-ups late in games.
“The good thing about having three of them is we can match up and we can continue to do it the next (and) the next day,” Williams said.
Thornton said he can also be more than just a match-up guy.
“I feel confident in doing that,” he said. “That’s up to them. I’ve had (1 2/3 inning) outings with New York. I’ve had thirds, it’s whatever they want. It’s about workload and what they want from me. I feel good. I’ve learned from mistakes over the years. I’m looking forward to learning new hitters.”
Thornton said he got a reputation last season for no longer being able to get righties out as consistently as he did lefties. But he said the White Sox had a ton of specialists who got righties out, so he felt the splits where skewed a bit.
“I had the minimal righties I faced in 2013, so they hit .300-something off me and everyone said I was done facing righties,” Thornton explained. “I took that as a little insult and focused on that and prepared myself to throw a full inning every day.
“I’m game for whatever they need me for. Obviously, lefties is what my job description has been pretty much over the course of my career, later innings and stuff like that. So haven’t talked a whole lot about that yet. They’re letting me settle in before they bombard me with anything.”
Thornton found out from the Yankees that he was headed to the Nats before he had arrived at the stadium in New York yesterday.
“Little shocked. I didn’t see it coming,” Thornton said. “Especially when you’re already past the trade deadline. Went to the stadium and got my baseball stuff. Went home, got a suitcase. Headed on down here.”
Thornton said he knows a little bit about the Nationals and their personnel, but the big thing was where they are in the standings.
“Well, I know they are in first place,” Thornton said. “I know a few of the guys just from playing against them. Played with (Rafael) Soriano, came up with him, long time ago in Seattle. We’re already picking on each other a little bit. Good group of guys, I know they have a lot of fun. Anytime you go to a first-place team, that’s the exciting part for me.”
He also knows he is nearing 38 years of age, but believes he still has a ton more baseball to play and help his team win.
“I believe in this game, if you don’t continue to change and learn from mistakes and develop yourself into a better player,” he said, “then that’s when the game passes you by and you’re done.”
Thornton also said he adds one other dimension to his initial foray into the National League:
“Left-handed pinch-hit power hitter (is) also big part of my game,” he said.