Baker on lack of bullpen changes, Rivero's struggles vs. lefties

CHICAGO - After the Nationals needed to ask for 11 total innings out of their bullpen over the last two games, it was fair to wonder if they would need to bring in a fresh arm before tonight's game against the White Sox.

The short answer: No.

"We didn't even talk about it," manager Dusty Baker said.

The thinking behind such a move: Blake Treinen just threw 66 pitches over three innings, leaving him out of commission for several days, and Sammy Solis threw three innings Sunday in Cincinnati, leaving him sidelined likely for at least one more day.

Throw in the fact that veteran Matt Belisle appears to be healthy and ready to return from his calf injury, and the prospect of a bullpen switch seemed plausible. The Nationals, though, had several reasons for not exploring that possibility.

"No. 1, we've got one of our aces going (tonight in Max Scherzer)," Baker said. "We figure he'll go deep in the ballgame. So who do you send out, Treinen? It seems like everybody wants to run the roster on our team but us. What kind of message do you send to the other guys if you ask everybody to give me what you've got, he gives me an extra inning and then he gets sent to the minor leagues? That's not a very good message for the organization to send. Now if we were upside-down, we might have to do something. But we don't have to do that right now. We've got everybody fresh except for Treinen, and maybe I'd like to give Solis another day."

So Belisle will remain on his minor league rehab assignment, now with Triple-A Syracuse. The veteran reliever has made six appearances so far with high Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, but he has yet to pitch on back-to-back days.

Pitchers are allowed to spend up to 30 days on rehab, and Belisle made his first appearance May 23, so the Nationals still have plenty of time if they want to drag this out longer.

One of the tough decisions the Nationals face once Belisle is activated is which current member of the bullpen will be dropped to clear space. Solis, who was Belisle's replacement when he landed on the DL at the end of April, has a 1.59 ERA in 13 games. Treinen, meanwhile, lowered his ERA to 2.39 with his extended outing last night.

Rivero-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgThe current member of the bullpen performing the worst is Felipe Rivero, who now sports a 5.19 ERA in a team-high 29 games. The lefty, though, continues to be lights-out against right-handed batters, who are hitting just .121 with a .436 OPS against him.

Surprisingly, Rivero's troubles have come against left-handed batters, who are hitting .324 with a .909 OPS against him. The situation got worse over the weekend when he was summoned to protect a five-run lead in Cincinnati but proceeded to walk Joey Votto and allow a three-run homer to Jay Bruce.

The Nationals think they may have spotted something about Rivero that has been different when facing lefties as opposed to righties. Baker wouldn't divulge details, but he hinted at something that opponents might have spotted.

"They have scouts," the manager said. "They study, too, just like we study. So it's a matter of how much of an adjustment he makes without driving himself crazy and just changing himself completely. I talked to him about something I saw from a hitter's standpoint. I talked to (pitching coach) Mike (Maddux) about it. But you don't really know if that's the reason until you get out there consecutive times in order to know if you're correct or not."

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