With closer named, Nats bullpen has chance to be exceptional

While everyone spent the last seven weeks - or, actually, the last 5 1/2 months - worrying about who was going to be the Nationals closer in 2017, a slightly more important fact might well have been glossed over: This team could have a really good bullpen in 2017.

And that's not just touting the company line. Stop for a moment and consider the seven men most likely to comprise the Nats' relief corps come Monday afternoon ...

Blake-Treinen-throwing-white-sidebar.jpgBlake Treinen
Shawn Kelley
Koda Glover
Joe Blanton
Sammy Solís
Enny Romero
Oliver Pérez

That's about as deep a bullpen as you're going to find in the major leagues on opening day. No, there isn't a closer with a proven track record. But there are four right-handers with late-inning stuff (three of them with successful track records and a fourth with the goods to become a closer sometime soon). And there are two left-handers with impressive stuff and another with a track record of durability.

And we haven't even talked about the guys with track records who came to West Palm Beach thinking they had a realistic opportunity to make the roster but couldn't leapfrog the depth chart: Joe Nathan, Vance Worley, Matt Albers.

"You come in - and I think Vance touched on it, too - he said when he signed here, he thought he might have a pretty good shot," said Nathan after being granted his release earlier this week. "But then you look around, you get to camp and you go, 'Wow, these guys are pretty stocked in the bullpen.' Everyone talks about the 'pen being the weakness. They're pretty deep."

The mid-spring signing of Blanton to a $4 million contract only strengthened this group.

"Prior to the Blanton signing, we thought we had really good depth in our bullpen," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "I think Joe adds to that and makes us even deeper as an organization. We feel good about the guys that we're going to run out there. Let's not forget, we were No. 2 in baseball last year with just about the same components of relievers."

Yes, lest anyone forget, the Nationals ranked behind only the Dodgers with a 3.37 bullpen ERA in 2016. And that was a unit that included Jonathan Papelbon (4.37), Felipe Rivero (4.53) and Yusmeiro Petit (4.50).

If you're not on board with Treinen as closer, keep a couple of things in mind: 1) He was really good last season, especially in becoming effective against left-handed batters thanks to an improved slider, and 2) There's no guarantee he'll be the closer the entire season.

Giving the job to Glover right now would've been an awfully risky move, given his lack of experience. Why not let the kid get his feet wet in his first full big league season, then potentially slide into the ninth inning if need-be this summer?

Besides, a whole lot of games are won in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings these days. And the Nationals can confidently stack their sixth-, seventh- and eighth-inning guys up against any other relief corps in baseball.

"I know a lot of people don't really want to give our bullpen credit, but we've got some really good guys down there," Treinen said. "Guys that have put up numbers. Guys that if you ask around, they've got good stuff. I feel really confident that our bullpen's gonna be - if we keep our heads down and stay healthy and do the things we need to do to be successful - we'll be every bit as good as we were last year, if not better."

Baker on Rendon's calf injury: "He's not ready" (g...
Nationals head home healthy, with most questions a...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/