- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday night, left-hander Xavier Cedeno started warming up in the Washington Nationals bullpen. Right-hander Blake Treinen began throwing on the adjacent mound. Then Cedeno sat down. Treinen kept throwing. The eighth inning would be his.

Manager Matt Williams had planned to use Treinen in this situation before the game. And even though the New York Mets were due to bring their two best left-handed hitters to the plate, he stuck to it.

Treinen gave up a one-out single to David Wright but snagged a comebacker from Lucas Duda in the next at-bat, rifling the ball to first to end the inning. Drew Storen picked up his first save of the season with a clean ninth, and the Nationals won, 2-1.

Though Ryan Zimmerman’s two-run home run and Jordan Zimmermann’s six strong innings were the game’s major storylines, Treinen’s appearance was noteworthy. The 26-year-old had never faced a situation in the majors like the one he encountered Wednesday when he entered a one-run game in the eighth inning. And with Casey Janssen recovering from rotator cuff tendinitis in his right shoulder, Treinen could see plenty of those situations in the near future.

“The situation is what it is,” Treinen said after the game. “It’s something new for me. I haven’t really had too many opportunities to pitch out of the ‘pen in a close game. I loved it. It was a blast. I was glad I was able to do my job to get to the ninth for Drew.”

When Tyler Clippard was traded to the Oakland Athletics this winter, he left a significant void in the Nationals’ bullpen. In the eighth inning of a tight game, Williams can no longer hand the ball to an unshakeable right-hander who is just as effective against lefties.

In spring training, he floated the possibility of letting matchups dictate whether Janssen, left-hander Matt Thornton or another reliever precedes Storen. Playing that matchup game will only work for so long, however. Finding a suitable fill-in while Janssen recovers would be preferable, and Treinen might be the best option to step into that role.

“He’s running the ball in there at 98 miles an hour with some good sink,” Williams said. “I’m happy with the way he went about it tonight. [There will] certainly be more opportunities for him.”

Treinen continues to leave positive impressions on his teammates as well. Storen described the 26-year-old’s repertoire as “big-time stuff.” Zimmerman said he has “all the talent in the world.”

“He’s throwing 98-mph bowling balls up there,” Zimmerman said. “Unfortunately, we’ve got a couple guys injured that have pitched back there, but those guys obviously have the talent and the experience to do it and I think we’ll be just fine.”

Treinen made 15 big-league appearances last season, including seven starts, and posted a 2.49 ERA. Though he was primarily a starting pitcher in Washington’s minor-league system, he has the combination of velocity and sinking movement that befits a late-inning reliever. He is highly-regarded within the organization and could become a long-term staple in the bullpen.

Whether that proves to be the case, or whether Treinen continues to work the eighth inning specifically, won’t alter his approach.

“I’m not going to speculate on whose roles are what,” Treinen said. “Everybody in the ‘pen down there can be an eighth-inning guy, seventh, eighth inning guy to get to Drew. There are so many talented pitchers on this staff. I’m just going to pitch whenever they call my name and tell me to go in. If this is what it is, I’ll be more than happy. If it’s not, then whenever my opportunity is called out there I’ll give it my best, just like anybody else on this staff.”

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