- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2018

A year and a day after the Washington Nationals shipped closer Blake Treinen to the Oakland Athletics along with two minor leaguers in exchange for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, Treinen returned to Nationals Park with an A’s insignia on his hat and a No. 1 inside a black star on his left shoulder.

Treinen departed Washington on July 16, 2017, with a 5.73 ERA. On Tuesday, he returned to the District as an All-Star, sporting a 0.94 ERA with 24 saves for Oakland.

The transformation in fortune wasn’t lost on Treinen, who was selected to his first All-Star Game. But he doesn’t feel there has been any physical change, suddenly altering his results on the mound. Nor was there a major gaffe from Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. Doolittle himself is an All-Star selection and Madson has been a steady late-inning option for the past season-and-a-half.

Instead, Treinen said the change of scenery helped, sending him back to the organization that drafted him in 2010. As did a secure job late in games for a rebuilding club. Ultimately, Treinen grabbed the fresh opportunity and clean slate, powering his path to his first All-Star selection.

“I didn’t really change much when I went there,” Treinen said. “I was maybe more aggressive, walked less guys and that led to some success. But being in a comfortable situation for a second opportunity that most people don’t get once — being a closer — definitely it was nice. I had guys in that organization give me a vote of confidence right away and say, ‘Hey, you’re our guy, we’re going to ride it out.’”

About two weeks before the Nationals traded Treinen, his experiment as a big league closer was not succeeding at a level necessary for a team aiming for a division title. Treinen knew he needed to improve.

“I’m sure these guys are sick of seeing the same result when I’m out there,” Treinen said after Washington’s 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs on June 29, 2017, one in which Treinen had allowed three ninth-inning runs to blow the save.

The spring training circus that season revolved around who would close for Washington. Then-manager Dusty Baker chose Treinen for Opening Day shortly before the Nationals returned to D.C.

Treinen didn’t voice it aloud, but it was the role he wanted.

“They gave me an opportunity to be a closer and I didn’t do the best job with it,” Treinen said Monday. “I can’t blame them for taking me out of that role because it’s a team that’s in win-now mode, you know, trying to gain momentum because D.C. has high expectations for the talent level they have and there’s a lot of good arms in that bullpen that were ready to close off, so if one guy wasn’t doing it, try something else.”

The Nationals tried other options. Koda Glover excelled before an injury in June 2017 sidelined him. Treinen’s trade introduced Doolittle to the job, and he has stopped what became a revolving door.

Treinen said a new scouting director in Oakland aided his transition there. After the trade, his ERA with the Athletics was 2.13 and he secured 13 saves. He has built on that in 2018, leading to his first All-Star nod.

“He’s been super aggressive and getting ahead of guys in the count,” Oakland teammate Jed Lowrie said. “When he throws strikes, I mean, it’s almost unhittable just because the velocity and movement.”

The Athletics aren’t the rebuilding club Treinen joined last season anymore, but the 30-year-old has developed with the team. Oakland is 13 games above .500 in a strong American League West, looking like viable wild-card candidates.

Treinen’s contributions have been a large part of that turnaround, and Treinen is back in D.C. because of it.

“You can’t write a script,” Treinen said of the journey. “It’s funny that it works out to where I had an opportunity to come back to D.C. this year, just one year removed.”

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