When Jim Riggleman managed the Seattle Mariners in the latter part of 2008, he had a journeyman reliever in the bullpen available for a variety of situations. Whether it was for a spot start, in relief of a starter's early exit or to protect a late inning lead, Riggleman could call on and trust Miguel Batista.
Earlier this season, on April 18th, the skipper turned again to his trusted veteran, asking Batista to warm up quickly and save the rest of the bullpen from a 10-run, first inning deficit left by Jason Marquis.
On Tuesday night, Batista wondered if his manager was joking when he asked him to go warm up. It was nearly 7:00 p.m. and Stephen Strasburg was slated to be on the mound to face Atlanta's young rookie, Jason Heyward. It was supposed to be a marquis matchup in front of a sell-out crowd.
"Imagine if you go there to see Miss Universe and you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos," Batista joked after the game, laughing off the chorus of boos from a crowd who paid to see the phenom.
Batista went on to shut out the Braves for five innings, while striking out six and walking one. It was an impressive performance for the reliever who ended up sending the crowd home pleasantly surprised.
"Physically, it might be a little more demanding but mentally, this is the big leagues. You should be ready to pitch," he said.
The skipper, who helped to bring Batista to the Nationals because of his versatility, was certainly impressed with the reliever's strong outing.
"It was outstanding," Riggleman said of the effort. "Miguel's done a little bit of everything for us this year. He's been a staff saver for us and tonight, he was a lot more than that."
"I just tried to give the people what they came to see," Batista said. "They came to see a 20 year old, they ended up having an almost 40 year old. They were expecting 10 strikeouts, but I'm too old for 10. I tried to give them the best I could, stay in the game and make the guys swing the bat because I knew I was limited on my pitches. I wanted to be there as long as I could."
It was his first start since August 2008, also under Riggleman, and his first win since May of that same year. "You always want to be the guy your boss can rely on," Batista said. He was honored that Riggleman turned to him first again in this situation.
"I'm the guy in the back of his mind that he can always rely on and I'm glad I did the job for him tonight," he said.