VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals will have another intriguing bullpen option to consider over the next few weeks after agreeing to a minor league deal with veteran right-hander Matt Belisle. Belisle joins other veterans like Sean Burnett, Nick Masset and Aaron Laffey as experienced relievers in spring training with no clear spot on the 25-man roster. The Nationals bullpen has undergone major renovations and with an impressive spring that proves good health, perhaps one of these veterans may find a spot.
Belisle, 35, may be the most promising of that bunch. He has appeared in more games than all but one reliever in baseball (Tyler Clippard) from 2010 to 2014. He pitched for Dusty Baker in Cincinnati in 2008, then landed with the Rockies in 2009. He averaged nearly 77 appearances a season from 2010 to 2012, all with Coors Field as his home, and led the National League with 80 appearances in 2012.
The former Braves draft pick was with the Cardinals in 2015, but spent most of the summer on the disabled list with what was officially referred to as “right elbow inflammation.” He pitched to a 2.67 ERA in 34 appearances with St. Louis.
Belisle relies on a low-90s fastball combined with a slider he uses heavily against right-handed hitters. He has a curveball he can use for lefties, if necessary, and a little-used change-up to complement the rest. Because he can mix and will not overpower, Belisle’s natural fit would be in middle relief, where the Nationals have newly acquired Yusmeiro Petit and Trevor Gott as likely right-handed options.