Due to a run of mediocre starts from the rotation and having an overtaxed bullpen, over the weekend the Washington Nationals promoted right-handed reliever Blake Treinen from Triple-A Syracuse to bolster their relief corps. To make room on the roster, the Nationals were forced to demote breakout pitcher Aaron Barrett to the minors. Similarly to Barrett, Treinen made quite an impression during spring training, striking out 9 hitters in 9.2 innings and flashing mid-90s velocity with heavy sink on his fastball.
Treinen was the Oakland Athletics 7th round pick in the 2011 draft from South Dakota St., and was one of three players (including A.J. Cole and Ian Krol) Washington acquired in the Mike Morse 3-way trade to Seattle in January 2013. The 25-year-old Treinen is a large man, listed at 6-5 215lbs, and his delivery generates excellent momentum, which makes the ball difficult to see for opposing hitters. Treinen has been almost exclusively used as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues, with a notably low 2.3 BB/9 ratio and 0.7 HR/9 for his career; these numbers could portend a solid career as a reliever and partially explains why the Nationals promoted him to bolster the overworked bullpen.
Treinen made his major league debut in the 6th inning Saturday evening in relief of Taylor Jordan, and blanked the Braves for 2 innings, allowing 0 runs on 2 hits with 1 strikeout. Treinen needed only 30 pitches against the 8 hitters he faced, throwing 20 strikes against 10 balls, and inducing 2 ground outs and 2 fly outs. Treinen flashed a strong 3-pitch mix, relying heavily on a 96.09mph sinker, while showing an 85.74mph slider and an 84.74mph curveball. He threw 26 sinkers, 2 sliders and 2 curveballs on his appearance. (Thanks BrooksBaseball.net)
Treinen overwhelming the Braves lineup with his mid-90s fastball with heavy sink that they could not seem to square up. He knows his strength and relies on his plus fastball, but he did flash a sharp biting slider to strike out Chris Johnson. His monster sinker and massive frame have gotten him to the big leagues, but the quality and consistency of his off-speed pitches will determine his eventual role. If his slider continues to improve in quality and consistency, in addition to his plus sinking fastball, Treinen projects as a high-leverage late-inning reliever.
Certainly one appearance and 30 pitches falls squarely in the category of small sample size, but it is difficult not to be impressed with this initial appearance from Blake Treinen and intrigued by his future potential. It is not often a team can acquire a pitcher with a plus fastball and a potential above-average slider, especially as the supposed 3rd player in a trade. But the Nationals have found a gem in Treinen, and a player who figures to be a big piece of their bullpen in the future, perhaps as soon as this season.