Because of Matt Belisle’s calf injury suffered in Tuesday’s game, the Nationals called up Sammy Solis from Class AAA Syracuse for Wednesday’s game against the Phillies. Solis, a left-handed reliever, is off to a dominant start, allowing one run and striking out 14 over nine innings in Syracuse. His fastball was clocked between 93 and 96 mph.
“We’ve got three left-handers and we’re facing a team now that has a bunch of left-handed hitters and switch-hitters,” Manager Dusty Baker said. “And then we’re going to face the Cardinals that have dangerous left-handed hitters and then we’re facing the Kansas City Royals that have a lot of left-handed hitters. And the Cubs have a few. I’m glad we have Solis to take his place and I’m glad he’s left-handed.”
Although the exact severity Belisle’s calf injury hasn’t been revealed yet, it was bad enough that he couldn’t cover first base during Tuesday’s game. He threw three pitches and got an out but left the game, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list the next day.
“It’s not nearly as bad as he told me it was in the spring,” Baker said. “It’s a good thing we didn’t let him throw anymore and we stopped it when we did.”
Solis, 27, made the full conversion to reliever last season after battling injuries as a starter. In limited major league action, he posted a 3.38 ERA over 21 1/3 innings. He has been even better so far this season at Syracuse, overpowering opponents.
“Fastball location was the biggest thing,” Solis said. “That’s one thing I lost last year, a lot of up in the zone. This year I’ve really been focused on getting it down. That’s what [pitching coach Mike Maddux] and [Baker] stressed when I got optioned in spring training: You’ve got the stuff, you’ve just got to fine-tune it a little bit. So I’ve been working on that in Syracuse.”
Solis said he isn’t “shaking in his boots” now that he is in the majors, unlike last season when he first got called up. He feels like he belongs; now he just has to contribute. And with his first full season as a reliever behind him, Solis thinks he is ready to.
“It’s huge, especially just saving my bullets now, just having the knowledge and the know-how to get loose quickly, sit down when I need to, get up when I need to, throw a jacket on when I need to,” Solis said. “I think the whole thing has come around now where I think I’m a reliever now. I kind of identify as one instead of a starter.”
Solis can also provide multiple innings per appearance, which can help a Nationals bullpen that has carried a heavy load since Sunday’s 16-inning marathon. Long reliever Yusmeiro Petit will need several days of rest after his 77 pitches that day.
“[Solis] hasn’t pitched in a while, in three or four days because of the rain-outs and off-days [at Syracuse],” Baker said. “It’s the best of a bad situation. And it’s a heaven sent really, being left-handed. He could’ve pitched last night but this is perfect.”
Belisle, 35, was off to a strong start with the Nationals before leaving Tuesday’s game. He hurt his right calf muscle in the offseason and said the same motion hurt him on the mound Tuesday. Although he said the pain wasn’t as bad, he was limping noticeably in the clubhouse after the game and was frustrated that it happened again. He had allowed one run in six innings.
>>> In unrelated injury news, Ben Revere was sent out Wednesday to begin his rehab assignment with Syracuse, which is off. Revere took batting practice on the field on Tuesday and ran the bases. “He looked good,” Baker said.
Revere will be progressed up from five innings to seven to full games, Baker said, with off days in between. Baker said the Nationals are targeting Revere’s return during the series in Chicago against the Cubs next weekend.