ATLANTA - Blake Treinen is no longer going to pitch the ninth inning for the Nationals, but the club isn’t going to designate one replacement closer for now, choosing instead to split those duties between veteran Shawn Kelley and rookie Koda Glover.
The decision was made in the wake of Treinen’s latest near-meltdown Tuesday night, when the right-hander entered with a 3-0 lead in hand over the Braves and proceeded to give up two singles and issue two walks (one with the bases loaded) while only recording one out, forcing manager Dusty Baker to summon Kelley to bail him out.
Treinen, who was named closer on the final day of spring training, has a 7.11 ERA through eight appearances, having let 16-of-34 batters reach base while tossing only one 1-2-3 inning of relief.
“We thought he was ready,” Baker said. “He thought he was ready. We’re just going to have to mix and match somewhere between Koda and Kelley as our closer, and then use (Treinen) in the sixth or seventh or eighth, or wherever is necessary for him to pitch. He realizes it. The day will come when we know he has the stuff to be ready.”
Treinen enjoyed significant success in a setup role last season, particularly when summoned to pitch out of a jam. He posted a 2.28 ERA in 73 games and led all major league relievers with 17 double plays induced.
He wasn’t nearly as successful in his first 2 1/2 weeks as a closer. Though he officially blew only one save in four attempts, he was scored upon in four of his eight appearances.
“We’re going to put him back more in a role he’s had success in,” Baker said.
In deciding who would take over as closer, Baker and fellow club officials faced the same dilemma that confronted them this spring. Kelley is the most experienced member of the bunch, but the Nationals are careful not to overwork him given the two Tommy John surgeries he has endured in his career. Glover, meanwhile, is widely viewed as the long-term answer for the ninth inning but has only 26 games of major league experience and only 85 games of professional experience.
When it came down to it, the protection of Kelley’s arm outweighed other factors, forcing the Nationals to go without one designated closer for now.
“We’re trying to preserve him,” Baker said. “We have a long season. It was all about Kelley’s resiliency. He gets lefties and righties out as a general rule, so that was the only question with him.”
And as much as they love Glover’s potential, the Nationals also are reluctant to put too much on his plate at this delicate, early stage of his career.
“He’s nursing some things, too,” Baker said, not specifying any particular ailment. “That’s why we don’t just say it’s Koda. ... Koda’s even less experienced than Blake. So, yeah, what you want and what you wish might happen sooner, hopefully, rather than later. But we’ve got to win ballgames in the meantime.”