Pena went 2-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 38 appearances last season. Bourque made it into 41 games between the two clubs, garnering a 4-2 combined record with a 1.70 ERA. Mills went 2-3 with a 2.48 ERA with Potomac and Harrisburg and continued to pitch well in the Arizona Fall League.
“That bullpen we had this year had some guys,” said Potomac manager Tripp Keister. “If you look at Bourque, Pena and Mills, those guys were really tough at the end of the game. One was lefty and two were righties. They really pushed each other. They were good for each other. Then they moved up kind of together. It wasn’t the same day, but in the span of a week they all moved up to Harrisburg. And I hope they brought that same attitude, almost like a camaraderie. They were fun to watch.
“The moment wasn’t too big for those three. They liked pitching with the game on the line. It was fun to go out there and bring in both those guys. Go to the bullpen and it had (impressive results). You go to our bullpen and it was pretty special with those three leading the charge.”
Keister had the good fortune to be able to put in an one of the three in late-game situations and they would eat up critical outs. The key was not allowing good swings.
“The one thing about Bourque, Mills and Pena with us, man, they are tough at-bats,” Keister said. “You talk about the end of the game, trying to string some hits together, get guys on and get them over and get them in, they made it tough on opposing teams.
“Those guys make for tough at-bats. They come at you in different ways. Pena is was upper 90s mph and touched triple digits. He has that slider. Bourque was mid-90s mph with the power curveball. Mills is a funky, sidewinding throw from under, but he’s still 89-91 mph. So he is still throwing hard. They’re not good at-bats no matter who you are facing. So you run those guys out there. I think they did the same thing in Double-A.
“I know Pena didn’t pitch much at the end of the game. He was more seventh and eighth inning, and then Bourque and Mills usually pitched the ninth. But when he went up to Harrisburg, I think Pena pitched more in the ninth. Those three were fun. It was fun to see them grow. Sam Narron did a great job with them. Really got them attacking hitters. Talking about ways to attack hitters with their stuff, what they are going to do with hitters. It was fun to watch those guys develop, definitely was.”
It will be important to track these three and see where they end up this season and next. Bourque is on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. Pena and Mills have shown they could make noise this season as well as they elevate to the top levels in the Nats system.