'Nice guys' can get saves, too; just ask Nats closer Treinen
WASHINGTON (AP) Like other members of the Washington Nationals' bullpen, newly appointed closer Blake Treinen was wearing a T-shirt before the first game of the season that read, in all capital red letters, ''Relievers are people too.''
Might seem silly, but there have been times that Treinen has been characterized as being the wrong sort of person - far too nice, far too human - to be an effective ninth-inning pitcher in the big leagues. Doesn't fit the stereotype, in other words, of the off-his-rocker and mean closer.
When a reporter asked which recent event meant more to him, his 3-month-old daughter rolling over for the first time or his first save while holding the official title of closer in Washington's 4-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Monday, Treinen chose, of course, his baby's big moment.
''Everyone tells him that he's a nice guy, because he is,'' shortstop Trea Turner said. ''But he was fired up. He wants to get the job done for us. It was awesome. It was great seeing him get that first one out of the way and now hopefully he can continue to do that.''
Treinen's next chance could come Wednesday, in Game 2 of the season, again against Miami.
He beat out teammates Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover in a spring training competition to earn the job, then made his debut by coming into the ninth inning of a two-run game to face the Marlins' 4-5-6 hitters, starting with imposing slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
''The job of closer, you can't pick who you're going to face,'' manager Dusty Baker said, ''and usually in the ninth inning, you're facing the heart of the lineup, which he did.''
After getting Stanton on a pop in foul territory, Treinen wound up with a full count on Justin Bour.
''Two years ago,'' Treinen said with a grin, ''they probably would have intentionally walked him.''
But Treinen, whose success is built mainly on a 98 mph sinker, threw a 3-2 slider that Bour swung at and missed.
''He wanted that one, and that's good, because I want to give him the liberty to be able to do that and have the confidence of knowing, `Hey, I like this pitch,''' catcher Matt Wieters said. ''And I agree with him. I think it was the right pitch.''
Another strikeout followed to end the game.
''It's still pretty new for me. So it was fun. It's exciting,'' Treinen said. ''I was pleased to do my job, and do my part in helping this team win.''
There were, to be sure, other positive developments on Day 1 for the 2017 Washington Nationals.
Those included Stephen Strasburg's seven innings out of the stretch, allowing two runs and earning the win; the success leadoff man Turner and new center fielder Adam Eaton had at the top of the order (''If I wasn't on base, he was,'' Turner said); Bryce Harper's fifth career opening-day homer; new bench player Adam Lind's go-ahead two-run homer as a pinch-hitter.
But if the Nationals are going to repeat as NL East champions, they probably need to keep getting key outs from Treinen, whose career save total stood at one before his 1-2-3 ninth inning in the opener.
''Kind of stuff he has, he just has to throw the ball over the plate,'' Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. ''Throw strikes, and it's hard to do anything with what he's got.''
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