Blake Treinen arrived from Class AAA Thursday night, carried himself like a full-blown big leaguer and pitched nothing like a stand-in. He weathered a near disaster. He wore the stalwart expression of a gunslinger. The velocity readings of his sinker, at first, read like a valedictorian’s test scores: 97, 96, 96, 97, 98.
In his second major league start, Treinen pitched well enough for the Nationals to win. He allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings, surviving a third inning that could have prompted him to unravel while showcasing his blistering, heavy sinker. He gave the Nationals reason to believe that they will be in good hands until Gio Gonzalez, whose place he took in the rotation, returns.
“He was good,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “He was a bulldog out there. I like it. He’s got good stuff, too. I’m impressed.”
In his first 17 1/3 major league innings, Treinen owns a 1.56 ERA. He blew away the Nationals during spring training. Washington acquired Treinen as a secondary piece to the trade that sent Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners last winter.
Right-handed starter A.J. Cole headlined the Nationals’ haul, and Cole currently has the third best ERA in the Class AA Eastern League. Still, one American League scout said, “By the time it’s said and done, Treinen’s going to be the main guy.”
So far, Treinen has convinced himself he can compete in the majors. He felt he wasted too many pitches Thursday night, throwing 102 and walking five batters. But he also realized he could get out major league hitters, or at least all the ones who aren’t named Andrew McCutchen.
“I just need to execute pitches a little better next time,” Treinen said. “My stuff plays. I just have to execute pitches. Next time I’m out, I’ll do a better job of it.”
Treinen endured a major hiccup in the third inning. He retired the first eight Pirates he faced, but with two outs, he walked the pitcher, Edinson Volquez. He gave up a single to Josh Harrison, then walked Neil Walker to bring McCutchen to the plate. Treinen was steamed after plunking McCutchen with a first-pitch curveball, forcing in a run.
“In that moment, he lost his focus a little bit,” Wilson Ramos said. “That happens to a young guy sometimes. But he did really good. When that guy gets a little more experience, he will be a great pitcher.”
Treinen limited the damage, getting Pedro Alvarez to pop out to center. “He’s relaxed,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “He doesn’t seem to panic over anything.”
McCatty probably would have preferred that Treinen attack McCutchen with his sinker rather than a curve. He wants him to use the pitch frequently.
“When you’re rushing it up there like that, and it’s heavy and sinking, man that it’s kind of tough to say, ‘Let’s go 40 percent off-speed and 60 percent fastballs,’ ” McCatty said. “Obviously, you can’t throw it every time. But it’s a pitch that he can get anybody out with.”
Treinen’s velocity dipped as his night wore on and his pitch count rose. After the fourth inning, Treinen threw a fastball that reached 94 mph once. Mostly, he hovered around 92-93. Afterward, he did seem concerned about it.
“I don’t know about velocity or anything,” Treinen said. “Probably just one of those days.”
Williams chalked up the loss in velocity to Treinen’s workload. He spent a week earlier this year in the Nationals’ bullpen, which took him off his starter’s routine. When he made a spot start May 6 against the Dodgers, the Nationals limited Treinen to 72 pitches.
“It’s part of the process,” Williams said. “He’s still building, he’s still learning how to do this. From everything we’ve seen, it’s been really good and he’s been able to go out and compete at the big league level and give us a chance to win. That’s all we ask for.”
FROM THE POST
Andrew McCutchen dominated as the Nationals lost to the Pirates, 3-1, in Blake Treinen’s second start.
Led by Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals’ starting rotation is going to the change-up more often this season.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 6, Pawtucket 1: Destin Hood went 3 for 3 with a walk. He’s hitting .329/.395/.447 in his first 21 games at Class AAA. Brock Peterson went 1 for 4 with a homer. Ryan Tatusko allowed one run in six innings on eight hits and a walk, striking out three as he lowered his ERA to 2.22.
Harrisburg 6, Trenton 4: A.J. Cole allowed four runs, none of them earned, in 5 2/3 innings on five hits and two walks, striking out five. He lowered his ERA to 1.97. Michael Taylor went 1 for 4 with a walk and three strikeouts. Rafael Martin allowed no runs and one hit in 2 1/3 relief innings, striking out two.
Lynchburg 6, Potomac 4: Pedro Severino went 2 for 4 with a double. Stephen Perez went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk. He’s hitting .333/.428/.456. John Simms allowed four runs in five innings on five hits and two walks, striking out four. Bryan Harper, Bryce’s brother, allowed one run in 2 1/3 innings, raising his ERA to 1.89.
Asheville 7, Hagerstown 1: Carlos Lopez went 1 for 3 with a double. Hector Silvestre allowed six runs in six innings on eight hits and a walk, striking out one.