Belisle officially added to roster, will make opening day bullpen

JUPITER, Fla. - The Nationals officially made Matt Belisle a part of their opening day roster this morning, purchasing the veteran reliever's contract.

Belisle, 35, had been in camp as a minor league invitee but all along appeared to be a strong candidate to make the club given his experience and ties to Dusty Baker, who managed him in Cincinnati.

The right-hander has appeared in six Grapefruit League games so far, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings. (All three runs and three of the four hits were surrendered in one outing, March 20 against the Tigers.)

Nats-Logo-Hands-Warmup-Sidebar.jpgBelisle will earn a $1.25 million salary by making the major league roster, according to a source familiar with his contract. He had the right to opt out of his deal and become a free agent if the Nationals didn't put him on the big league roster this week.

Though he missed some time with bone chips in his elbow last season while pitching for the Cardinals, Belisle was effective when on the mound, posting a 2.67 ERA in 34 appearances. Prior to that, he had established himself as one of the majors' most durable relievers, pitching in at least 66 games for five consecutive seasons from 2010-14 with the Rockies.

With Belisle making the club, the Nationals appear to have six members of their opening day bullpen set. Closer Jonathan Papelbon will be joined by fellow right-handers Belisle, Shawn Kelley and Yusmeiro Petit, plus lefties Felipe Rivero and Oliver Perez.

That leaves one spot up for grabs over the final days of the spring, with veteran lefty Sean Burnett battling young right-handers Blake Treinen and Trevor Gott. There is a chance the Nationals could still keep two of those three pitchers, though, if they decide to have Joe Ross open the season at Triple-A Syracuse because they don't need a fifth starter until April 13.

Burnett, who has not allowed a run in eight appearances this spring as he attempts to return from the second Tommy John surgery of his career, has an April 1 opt-out on his minor league contract. Treinen and Gott each have options and can be sent to Triple-A without risk of being lost to another organization.

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