On the eve of the American League Wild Card Game, Athletics closer Blake Treinen answered questions on a wide range of topics, from the win-or-go-home game to becoming one of the best relievers in the American League.
MLB.com: What a year you had in 2018. I remember when you were playing for the Nationals. You were not consistent on the mound. You had problems getting lefties out. What turned it around?:: AL Wild Card Game schedule and results ::
Treinen: When I went to Oakland, I think the cerebral approach [helped me]. I was trying some things that haven't been part of my focus in my career. This guy named Michael Fisher, who is in the Oakland area, had scouting reports on what to throw and where to throw the ball for a higher success rate. It has been huge for me. It's not buying into the elementary thought of just throw your best pitch all the time. You have to earn certain pitches. You have to dictate the count and when to throw things. You have to force your hand and not let the hitter be comfortable. It has been a huge help learning how to throw a cutter and learning how to locate a four-seamer off my sinker.
As soon as I went to Oakland, [the Athletics said], "You are our guy. We are going to let you go out there to either fail or succeed. We are looking forward to the future." That's the main difference between them and D.C. The Nationals were ready to win. I never closed before. That's my own fault that I didn't perform. That team needed somebody, and I wasn't that guy, and that's fine. I'm thankful that they got what they needed, and I've been able to uphold my end of the bargain in a trade that made it Oakland's while, because they took a chance on me. I'm very fortunate for it.
MLB.com: You always had a great fastball with sink, but what surprised me this year were the strikeouts. You had 100 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings.
Treinen: It's coming back to learning how to approach certain hitters. Sometimes, it's more valuable to strike somebody out. I used to think, "Wow, strikeouts are overrated. Ground balls with weak contact help you pitch longer." As a starter, that might be what you want. There are times I can go do that, get that ground ball I needed, and that's a blessing. I still have that in my tank. But this has been a great year, an eye-opening year for me. You force the issue on the hitters early. If I have a chance to get a strikeout, go get it.
MLB.com: When I first met you, you often talked about the Lord. I was just wondering is there anything else that really helped you get to where you are today?
Treinen: Man, I know people look for the best answer, but that's all I have. I wouldn't be able to play this game if not for my wife [Kati] and her support -- if it wasn't for my family and their support along the way and the people in my life that helped developed me. That's it. I worked really hard. I'm blessed with a good trainer in Eric Cressey. I've been blessed with good trainers on the teams I've played on in D.C. and Oakland. Strength coaches, pitching coaches, I can go through a lot of people, but ultimately, it's timing. I don't know. I call it divine.
You meet certain people and you say, "God had his hands on that." I can definitely see His plan for my life. I don't know why He chose baseball for me, but He did. I'm thankful for it, but I never knew why. I'm just excited to make the most of this opportunity and see where it goes. I truly believe God writes better scripts than what we can ever plan out. I think, this year, the little details kind of prove that.
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MLB.com: [You've] been back and forth between Washington and Oakland. How good is it to be back in Oakland?
Treinen: It's nice. It was kind of bittersweet, because I made so many good relationships in D.C. Before last year, I didn't really know Oakland from a Major League standpoint. I knew it from a developmental level. When I came here last year, the community we had here, it's family first. Let's do things as a team. Everybody bought in. It wasn't easy for them losing Sean Doolittle or Ryan Madson. Those guys were the core of this team. I really hope I've been able to be something special for them as well. They embraced me right away. They could have been easily disgruntled. It's easy to be that way when two of your top players are dealt away. They relied on them at the back end of the game. I really wanted to just come in and be that guy for them.
MLB.com: The [AL Wild Card Game] for Oakland will be a bullpen game. It's rare we see it in the postseason.
Treinen: I don't how we are going to roll everything out. I know Liam Hendriks is opening. I'm thinking I'm going to throw the latter part of the game, however it rolls out. We'll see. We fully believe in Bob Melvin 100 percent. … This is a must-win situation, so whatever we have to do, it's what we are going to do.
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MLB.com: What makes Bob Melvin so great? He has to be a candidate for manager of the year.
Treinen: He has had a lot of success as a player and manager. He has experienced quite a bit. So he knows what makes players tick. He knows what holds them together. It's communication, and it's an open-door policy. We can come in and talk to him whenever you have anything on your mind. There's no ego. There's no nothing. I think he really enjoys a family environment in the clubhouse. You can say there are such things as player-managers like Dusty [Baker], and Bob is up there. I thought Dusty was great. I thought Matt Williams was great, and I really enjoyed my time with Bob Melvin.