- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Anticipating his second consecutive season with the Washington Nationals, relief pitcher Jerry Blevins filled the first team truck out of Viera, Florida like he did the prior season. A chunk of his personal stuff bounced up Interstate 95 to his Washington residence and he continued to get his spring training work in. A week later, he was traded to the New York Mets.

Blevins sat in the visitor’s clubhouse at Nationals Park on Wednesday in his blue Mets gear. His fiancée and agent were in New York searching for a new living space. The Upper East Side, Brooklyn and Long Island City are options. Much of the discretion will fall to Blevins‘ fiancée, who emails with information that Blevins reads on his phone in the clubhouse. He knows making her comfortable is a priority since he’s gone so often, anyway. There’s also the dog. Can’t forget the dog.

The end-of-spring scramble for players that make a major-league team or are traded late during Grapefruit League play is an annual complication. Blevins lucked out in some ways. Being shipped to the Mets for outfielder Matt den Dekker meant he opened the season in Washington, where much of his belongings still resided. Tuesday was an off day following the opener, providing an organizational window. Blevins has his weeklong stay in a New York City hotel set up for when he finally arrives in New York on April 12, after the Mets complete a six-game road trip to start the season.

“Having been around the game for a while, I’ve been traded twice before,” Blevins said. “Never have I been traded with this kind of urgency, in a sense that things are happening really fast; you’ve got a couple days to figure it out.”

New Nationals outfielder Reed Johnson has dealt with a swift window before. He was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Atlanta Braves on July 30, 2012, right before the trade deadline. Johnson was removed in the bottom of the fifth inning of a night game when the Cubs batted around. He was on the phone with the Atlanta front office shortly after. The Braves’ brass informed him they wanted him in Atlanta the next morning. Off he went.

Johnson signed a free agent minor-league deal with the Nationals on March 30 after being released by the Miami Marlins. Injuries opened a roster spot, so the 38-year-old outfielder was added. Much like when he was sent to Atlanta, the management of off-field settling had to be done in a hurry. He called in reinforcements.

His brother-in-law and father-in-law flew from southern California to Jupiter, Florida, where the Marlins hold spring training, to help. They drove two packed cars up to Washington. For Blevins, he’s trying to find a suitable place for himself, his fiance and dog. Things are more complicated for Johnson. There are three kids, ages 5, 3 and 1, to worry about. For good measure, there’s also a dog.

“For the player, I don’t think it’s as tough as it is on the family, you know?” Johnson said. “We’re just packing up a bag that can hold 10 days worth of road stuff and they’re kind of responsible for the rest of the stuff.”

Like how the schedule benefited Blevins to open the season in Washington, the spring training schedule helped Johnson. The Nationals played in Jupiter two days after Johnson was signed. An off day followed. He spent just one night in a hotel in Viera before returning to the rental house in Jupiter. Johnson was then able to corral the kids and point everyone north.

“It’s a couple days of stress,” Johnson said. “Everything kind of falls into place after that.”

His family has a rental house in the Washington area set. After an initial stay at a Residence Inn, the Johnson clan is ready to relocate. They are all waiting for the rental furniture, scheduled to arrive on Thursday, before settling in. The problem for Johnson is that he will be on his way to Philadelphia with the Nationals when the dollies roll couches and tables into his new place.

“I won’t get to see the finished product, we’ll be on the road,” Johnson said. “But, I’ll see it when we come back.”

Another wrinkle is schooling for his 5-year-old son. There are Internet-based options to keep him on pace until the offseason starts — hopefully late October, Johnson points out — and the family returns to its actual home in Las Vegas.
“So when he goes back, he’s able to kind of jump right back into things,” Johnson said.

Things were, still are to a degree, hectic for Blevins and Johnson. The trump card, however, is always baseball.

“There’s nothing more important than baseball,” Blevins said. “So, I know without doing my job here, all that stuff doesn’t matter anyway. My first and main focus is baseball first. Everything else will kind of fall in line.”

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