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Nats tab Treinen for Opening Day closer

Right-hander posted career-low 2.28 ERA in 2016
March 30, 2017

WASHINGTON -- Blake Treinen has been named the Nationals' closer, manager Dusty Baker announced prior to the team's 8-1 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday afternoon, ending months of speculation about who would fill the position.The Nationals had been deciding between Treinen, Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover this spring.

WASHINGTON -- Blake Treinen has been named the Nationals' closer, manager Dusty Baker announced prior to the team's 8-1 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday afternoon, ending months of speculation about who would fill the position.
The Nationals had been deciding between Treinen, Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover this spring. Baker, pitching coach Mike Maddux, general manager Mike Rizzo and assistant general manager Bob Miller had been involved in meetings over the past few days. All three players had the presumed stuff to close, but the Nats valued durability and resiliency, and decided Treinen best fit the profile.
Kelley has had two Tommy John surgeries in his career, and the Nats managed his innings carefully in 2016 in order to get him through a full season. Baker said they felt like they handled him perfectly this past season and believed they could better manage his workload this way.

Glover had emerged as a strong candidate, but he will only turn 24 years old next month and was in Class A Advanced Potomac at this point in '16. He tore the labrum in his hip at the end of last year and has never pitched a full season in the Majors, and Baker said the Nats were unsure how closely they would have to monitor him through the year.

Highest ground-ball percentage in 2016
Minimum 50 IP

   
So the job goes to Treinen, the 28-year-old with an explosive sinker that rivals that of Orioles closer Zach Britton. Baker was intrigued with the comparison, especially with catcher Matt Wieters able to help guide Treinen after spending years catching Britton.
"He may give up a hit or walk, but he's always one pitch away from getting two outs with one pitch," Baker said. "He was really good at getting lefties out the second half of last season, so perhaps he's found that formula. He's a strong young man and very durable."
The Nats had pursued veteran closing options in free agency this offseason, making offers to re-sign Mark Melancon before he chose the Giants. They also tried to lure away Kenley Jansen before he decided to go back to the Dodgers. Washington ultimately turned to an in-house option, and Treinen, Kelley and Glover contended that it did not matter to them what their roles would be, that they would do whatever their manger asked. But when Baker told Treinen, the skipper was surprised to hear him say how he had been looking forward to it.
Treinen is coming off a career year in 2016, his first full season in the Majors after breaking in as a starter in 2014 and getting sent down to the Minors in '15. In '16, he posted a career-low 2.28 ERA with an excellent 65.9 percent ground-ball rate (second among relievers to Britton) in 73 appearances.
"I've been through a lot," Treinen said. "I've failed on the biggest stage. I've had success, not on the biggest stage, but in some big-time situations. I know that I can do it. Coming into this year, there was never a question in my head of whether I was capable of doing it. It was just a matter of what was best for the team. That's what it was: What dynamic was going to be best for us to have success? I feel honored that they chose me for closer. I don't want to ruin that opportunity."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Using a heavy ground-ball lean (65.9 percent) to offset spotty control (4.2 BB/9 rate), Treinen thrived to the tune of a 2.28 ERA across 67 frames in 2016. Set to close for one of baseball's better clubs, he can be added from waivers in all leagues and selected in the late rounds of drafts in the coming days. Now officially below Treinen in Washington's bullpen hierarchy, Kelley and Glover can be dropped in most mixed formats. But fantasy owners shouldn't completely ignore the duo, as Kelley could help deep-league owners in a setup capacity and Glover may ascend to the closer's role if Treinen struggles.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Ian Browne contributed to this report.