Felipe Rivero fills closer role, recording first career save

Left-hander Felipe Rivero helped the Nationals close out the Braves in a 3-0 win, avoiding a sweep. The 24-year-old rookie threw two perfect frames with two strikeouts, claiming the first major league save of his young career.

After making his big league debut on April 17, Rivero has appeared in 48 games, compiling a 2-1 record with a 2.85 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 47 1/3 innings pitched.

baseballs-in-bin-sidebar.jpg“I just think he has stepped forward and that’s a good sign for him and a good sign for this organization,” Nationals manager Matt Williams told reporters after last night’s win.

The Nationals acquired the hard-throwing Rivero from Tampa in a four-player deal, which also netted Jose Lobaton in Feb. 2014. At that point, Rivero was exclusively a starting pitcher. He was converted to a reliever this past offseason and made his way to the majors after just eight appearances at Triple-A Syracuse in early April.

Rivero consistently throws his fastball in the high 90’s with action, which can be devastating against left-handed hitters. But because of his experience as a starter, Rivero has confidence facing right-handed batters as well. Just last week, Rivero popped 100 mph on the radar gun for the first time in his career.

So with Jonathan Papelbon’s future up in the air with the Nationals, could Rivero be an option as a closer?

“It depends on how he progresses,” Williams told reporters. “I think his stuff profiles in any inning. Again, he’s new to this. First year out, he’s done pretty well. And tonight is an example of what he can do. He can work through righties and lefties and go multiple innings if needed. So we’ll see what the future holds.”

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