Fister set to return, Treinen continues to impress

VIERA, Fla. - It’s Jordan Zimmermann’s turn in the Nationals spring rotation today, but we won’t see Zimmermann on the mound at Space Coast Stadium this afternoon when the Nats host the Marlins.

We’ll see Doug Fister instead.

Fister will make his first Grapefruit League appearance since March 2, this after being briefly shut down with right elbow inflammation. The right-hander is scheduled to throw three innings and about 45 pitches today as the Nats try and slowly build his arm strength back up before the regular season begins.

With Fister needing to get back and face some big league hitters again, Zimmermann will get bumped over to the back fields, where he’ll pitch in a minor league game. Zimmermann will likely throw somewhere around 80 pitches this afternoon.

We might not see Anthony Rendon in today’s lineup, as manager Matt Williams said yesterday that the second baseman is dealing with a chest cold and might be held out a couple of days. There’s a bug going around the Nats clubhouse, one that I’ve gotten a touch of the last couple days, and Rendon might be the latest to need some time off because of it.

Back in early March, when I interviewed right-hander Blake Treinen for this piece about how far he’s come since having a mediocre year at high Single-A in 2012, if you had asked me whether Treinen would still be in camp with the Nats on March 22, I would have said the chances would be very slim.

Treinen all but admits the same. Yet here the 25-year-old is, still with a locker in big league camp, one of just a handful of guys competing for the final bullpen spot despite the fact that last season was his first above high-A.

“I think it’s a pleasant surprise,” Treinen said. “My intentions and expectations coming into spring training were just to leave an impression. And the fact I’m still around is an absolute blessing. I can’t thank them more for giving me the opportunity they’ve given me so far. I’m just trying to make the most of it, go day by day. Whatever their decision is at the end of spring training, it’s their decision. But I feel like I’ve done my absolute best to leave an impression with the big club.”

Treinen’s numbers this spring won’t wow you (9 2/3 IP, 5 ER, 15 H, 3 BBs, 9 Ks), but it’s his stuff and the way that he attacks hitters that has scouts and talent evaluators both within and outside the organization raving about his ceiling.

The right-hander, acquired from the A’s last offseason as a piece in the three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to Mariners, has a power sinker that sits in the mid 90s, has neared triple digits this spring and has great movement. He also throws a slider and a changeup. He showed that three-pitch repertoire last year at Double-A Harrisburg as a starter, but Treinen’s sinker alone makes him a very intriguing bullpen option.

He’s watched over the last couple of weeks as the Nationals clubhouse has emptied, as guys have been sent over to minor league camp. Treinen is one of just two pitchers still in camp not on the 40-man roster (Michael Gonzalez is the other), and he’s seen a bunch of his friends and teammates from last season pack their bags and make the trek over to the minor league side recently.

“I try not to think about it,” Treinen said. “Because as nice as it is for me to stay, they also have to deal with the negative side of it. It’s part of the game. It’s happened to me before, and it’s probably going to happen again at some point in my career, whether it’s tomorrow, two years down the road, whenever. I just try not to worry about that stuff.”

The way the Nationals have used Treinen lately (he faced just two hitters in yesterday’s game against the Cardinals, striking out one) indicates that for now, they probably view him as a guy who can help in relief. He probably still is a bit of a longshot to crack the opening day roster with a host of other bullpen options still in camp, but Treinen has most definitely turned some heads this spring.

“It’s easy 96 with some sink,” Williams said after Treinen’s appearance yesterday. “He continues to impress, that’s for sure.”

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