Early spring training games are a good chance for younger players to get a shot to play in major league games.
One right-handed pitcher for the Nationals, Wander Suero, has gotten off to a very good start. He has not allowed a run in four appearances. Suero pitched in games on Feb. 23 and 27, and March 2 and 4. He has recorded seven strikeouts and one walk, allowing only two hits over four innings.
In yesterday’s 6-2 win over the Tigers, Suero struck out the side in one inning of relief. In nine career spring training games, Suero has yet to allow an earned run over eight innings, with 12 strikeouts.
The 26-year-old Dominican was honored late last season as the organization’s Pitcher of the Year. He made comments in the press conference about how he felt he was ready to make the next step. So far he has shown he might be a candidate to help fortify a bullpen that was expecting flame-throwing Koda Glover to be ready for opening day.
“I was given the opportunity to produce all season long,” Suero said last October through the team interpreter. “I can’t control what happens with the decisions the organization makes about who goes up. I was working very hard all season long, as I usually do. I personally think I was very capable of pitching up here in the big leagues. But that’s out of my control, out of my hands. But that just makes me work harder in the offseason and prove to them that I am able and ready to pitch up here. When I get that opportunity, I’ll take advantage of it.”
In 2017, Suero was outstanding. Pitching between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, the right-hander went 3-2 with a 1.79 ERA with 20 saves. He struck out 65 and walked only 19. Suero said he felt his cutter pitch had started to get real results as the season progressed. The other sign that Suero was ready to make that next step was finally getting quality return on his changeup. The changeup is usually the pitch that is more difficult for prospects to master, but if they can, it can turn into being a pitch that can accelerate their path to the bigs.
“I feel like in general, I improved on all my pitches,” said Suero. “They all got better. My cutter was the biggest pitch in my arsenal, and I feel like I control it a lot better and it did improve. One other thing was my changeup. I was not using it very often, especially down in Potomac. But this year, in Syracuse, I realized I needed another pitch to complement the other ones. I started using the changeup a lot.”
It has been a long road for Suero. The highly-touted prospect made his debut in the Dominican Summer League for the Nats in 2010. He reached Double-A in 2015. Last season was his first opportunity at Triple-A. He has pitched in 208 games and logged over 469 innings in his career.
Also interesting from the offensive side to see the leaders in hits: First baseman José Marmolejos, outfielder Victor Robles, journeyman outfielder Moisés Sierra and former LSU outfielder Andrew Stevenson all have six hits in the first 10 games. First baseman Chris Dominguez, most recently with the Giants and Reds, third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez and catcher Spencer Kieboom each have five hits.
Of the newcomers that have played at least nine spring training games, Sierra has the best slash line: .400/.471/.600. He has six hits in 15 at-bats. The 29-year-old Sierra played with the Blue Jays and White Sox from 2012 to 2014. Last season at Triple-A New Orleans, Sierra hit .294/.361/.438 with 11 homers and 68 RBIs over 123 games.