Two regular season appearances are not enough to declare Blake Treinen a changed man, but couple those with a strong spring training and it's clear the right-hander is trending in the right direction.
Treinen pitched his second scoreless outing of 2016 in the Nats' 4-2 win over the Marlins on Sunday. He needed only nine pitches to breeze through the eighth inning with one strikeout and a pair of routine groundballs.
“It’s early. But there’s been success so far," Treinen said. "It is nice to see what I’ve worked on has translated from spring into the season, even though it’s only outing No. 2.”
Treinen focused on getting out lefties this offseason, as they hit .336 off of him in 2015 compared to the .187 mark set by right-handed batters. Four of the seven batters he has faced this season have been left-handed. Three of those were retired with one drawing a walk.
“I’ve kept the ball down, which always helps. With a lefty, if the ball’s elevated, it doesn’t matter if it moves or not. A two-seamer runs right in their bat path," Treinen explained.
"The more that it’s up, the more side-to-side it is. The more it’s down, the more vertical angle I get on it. If they’re hitting it on the ground, I know I’m doing something right. And at the same time, I’ve been able to pitch in. But these last few times I’ve faced lefties, it’s been early contact. So I haven’t had to go deep, which I’m fine with. The earlier, the better. As long as I’m getting good results, I’m happy."
Treinen can hit triple digits on his sinker and manager Dusty Baker loves the right-hander's signature pitch.
"We certainly can use that sinker late in the game," Baker said.
Baker just wants Treinen to be more aggressive with it. He and Treinen have had conversations about the reliever's confidence and how he can use more "dog" in him.
It's an abstract concept, but Treinen understands what his manager means.
"I’m not going to try to overthink the situation, I’m just going to try to focus on each pitch and each hitter. Like [pitching coach Mike] Maddux has told me: Why wait? That’s our kind of funny little saying in the bullpen. Why wait? Go at ‘em. It’s boded well so far.”
The Nationals reworked their bullpen this winter, but still entered the season with questions. If Treinen continues to improve, he could help turn what some see as a weakness into a relative strength.