Treinen impresses in emergency starting role (Nats win 4-2)


Score: Nationals 4, Marlins 2

Recap: With scheduled starter Bronson Arroyo a late scratch due to shoulder soreness, the Nationals had to adjust on the fly this afternoon. Blake Treinen was up to the task, stepping in as emergency starter and cruising through two scoreless innings. Matt Belisle and Felipe Rivero took over from there, combining to retire all nine batters they faced out of the bullpen. The Nationals got a three-run homer from Michael A. Taylor, his second opposite-field blast at Roger Dean Stadium this spring. Ryan Zimmerman made his spring debut at first base and looked perfectly comfortable in the field, making one nifty play on a short-hop grounder in the second inning.

Need to know: It was a long time coming, but Danny Espinosa finally recorded his first hit of the spring today. Stuck in an 0-for-18 slump, Espinosa singled through the left side of the infield in the fourth inning, batting right-handed vs. the left-handed Wei-Yin Chen. Two innings later, Espinosa added his first hit of the spring from the left side of the plate.

On deck: Thursday vs. Braves in Viera, 1:05 p.m.

JUPITER, Fla. - The Nationals aren't looking at Blake Treinen as a starter these days, committing to the right-hander as a potential late-inning reliever who can best take advantage of his power sinker. But when Bronson Arroyo had to be scratched for this afternoon's scheduled start against the Marlins, they didn't hesitate to send Treinen to the mound for the first inning and then enjoyed watching him overwhelm opposing hitters.

Treinen wound up tossing two scoreless innings at Roger Dean Stadium, striking out four of the first six batters he faced in an impressive performance given the circumstances.

blake-treinen-sidebar.png"This is definitely the kind of outing I can build off of," said Treinen, who only found out this morning he would be starting in Arroyo's place. "Everything just felt really good. This was a promising outing for me."

A starter when he first debuted for the Nationals in 2014, Treinen had trouble sustaining his success the second and third time around an opposing lineup, so the club made him a full-time reliever last season and intends to stick with that plan this year.

The logic is simple: Treinen's upper-90s sinker should play well in a late-inning role, the kind of pitch that can quickly get him out of a jam via double-play grounders.

"He certainly has the stuff for it, big time," manager Dusty Baker said. "There's always a need for a sinkerballer who can get you out of trouble. Bring him in, bases loaded, and boom: a ground ball."

The key for Treinen, as became obvious last season, is to find some success against left-handed batters, for whom his sinker is less of a weapon. He has worked with Maddux this spring on rectifying that, attempting to throw more fastballs inside and utilizing a changeup more. The results today in that regard were encouraging: Treinen retired two of the Marlins' three lefties, striking out both Dee Gordon and Derek Dietrich.

"I think I've had some good success against lefties (this spring), for sure," the 27-year-old said. "I need to continue to improve, though, at the same time. Every day is another opportunity to get better. ... The biggest thing is, I got ahead of them."

Treinen got ahead of just about everybody. He needed only 11 pitches to strike out the side in the bottom of the first, working at a brisk pace that wasn't necessarily by design but played to his advantage.

"When you're in a groove, you don't want to kill your rhythm," he said. "I didn't realize I was working quick. I was in a pretty good rhythm there in the first inning from the get-go. I was getting ahead of guys early, able to put them away early. When it's working, I just stick to it."

Things got a little bumpier in the second inning, when Treinen walked Justin Bour, surrendered a single to Cole Gillespie and had trouble commanding his slider. But with the Nationals now grooming him for a possible short-relief role, Treinen likely won't need to sustain his success for more than a handful of batters at a time.

"He's got set-up stuff," Baker said. "It's just a matter if he can hit all quadrants of the strike zone and get lefties out. This is our job, to help him how to pitch to lefties. He's got the stuff."

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