Treinen breaks out changeup to confound Cardinals lefties (Nats win 5-2)

NATIONALS QUICK WRAP

Score: Nationals 5, Cardinals 2

Recap: Blake Treinen worked two scoreless innings, retiring all four left-handed hitters he faced and allowing only one hit. The Nationals scored twice in the second off starter Deck McGuire and twice in the third off closer Trevor Rosenthal, and the outbursts came without benefit of an extra-base hit. Right-hander Burke Badenhop was touched for two runs on three hits and a walk in the fifth. Scott Sizemore continues to rake - his eighth-inning double upped his spring average to .571 and three of his four hits have been for extra bases.

Need to know: Trea Turner’s speed is the real deal. In the first, he grounded to second baseman Kolten Wong, who momentarily juggled the ball, allowing Turner to beat out the routine bouncer for what was ruled an error but could have gone as a hit. Turner then stole a base. His speed creates an added dimension in the lineup that has never really boasted a burner.

On deck: Monday, vs. Marlins at Space Coast Stadium, 1:05 p.m.
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JUPITER, Fla. - For at least one afternoon, Blake Treinen didn’t struggle to contain left-handed batters. And though the southpaw swingers made hard contact against the right-hander a couple of times, he’ll take the effort as a sign of progress.

The change of pace was a changeup suggested by new pitching coach Mike Maddux, who has added another weapon to the right-hander’s arsenal.

Everyone knows left-handed hitters have traditionally treated Treinen rudely, especially during what he called a “feast or famine” 2015. Their career .337/.400/.471 slash line against him is unsightly enough, but they pounded Treinen at a .336/.425/.509 clip last season, when his problems outweighed his promise.

It was no surprise that Nationals manager Dusty Baker pointed to Treinen’s troubles before Sunday afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals, offering that the right-hander needed to come up with a solution in order to gain his new manager’s trust.

blake-treinen-sidebar.pngTwo scoreless innings later, Treinen had at least a better starting point for his mission. He retired all four left-handed hitters he faced, and allowed only one hit in his outing, a leadoff double to left by Randal Grichuk in the second.

“I threw some great change-ups to lefties,” Treinen said. “And I think it helped from an execution standpoint.”

The lefties were still a mixed bag. Cardinals leadoff man Kolten Wong unleashed a screaming liner that was gloved by Matt Skole at third, then Matt Carpenter finished off the first by popping to short. After Grichuk’s double in the second, Treinen got Matt Adams to sky to left and Brandon Moss on a sinking liner to left that Reed Johnson turned into an inning-ending double play.

“Result-wise, I was very pleased,” he said. “Command of my fastball wasn’t very great - that’s going to need a lot of work in my opinion. I’ve had days where it’s been really good and today just wasn’t my day with the fastball command. But I made pitches when I needed to and I had great defense behind me.”

But keeping the left-handed hitters at bay with a changeup is a new wrinkle, something that Treinen was happy to integrate into his pitch mix, especially as a way to combat those pesky southpaws that have long bedeviled him.

“I’m going to need a changeup and I’m very pleased with the way it’s come,” said Treinen, who threw 15 of his 27 pitches for strikes and fanned one. “Mike’s had some good input with me on how to throw it and trust it, and today, implementing in the game went really well. I was really happy with how the changeup worked today.

“But the slider wasn’t very good, the fastball command was hit and miss. So overall I’m happy that there’s a couple of goose eggs up there. But it’s crazy to look back that there’s only one hit when they squared up two baseballs.”

Treinen still isn’t sure whether he’s going to be starting or relieving this season, though it’s possible the Nationals are stretching him out early in spring games just to give them some flexibility as Baker figures out his staff. Treinen would like to be a starter, but wants to be in the majors and will take whatever role gets - and keeps - him there.

Adding a new pitch won’t hurt his chances of flourishing in whatever role the Nationals choose for Treinen.

“(Maddux) just told me, ‘Don’t try to create it, just throw it to locate it,’ ” Treinen said. “Something simple like that has helped tremendously. I’m not trying to overthink it, just throw it.”

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