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Sammy Solis excelling in Matt Belisle’s absence; Dusty Baker unhappy with a replay call

Sammy Solis. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

CINCINNATI — When right-handed reliever Matt Belisle landed on the disabled list on April 27, the Nationals called up left-handed reliever Sammy Solis, who was throwing well at Class AAA Syracuse. In the majors for over a month now, Solis hasn’t skipped a beat.

Solis has a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings. He has struck out 14 batters but walked eight, a ratio he said he wants to improve. It hasn’t hurt him, though, because opponents are hitting .125 against him, which is tied for the lowest in baseball for pitchers with at least 10 innings.

“I honestly haven’t been thinking about [my results] too much,” Solis said. “I’m just kind of taking it day by day, especially in my situation. I’m just happy to be here and contributing. The numbers are pretty good right now, but I can’t focus on that at all. I just have to focus on when the phone rings and my next outing.”

In his second full season as a reliever, Solis feels comfortable. And as a result, his velocity has been consistently around 93-94 mph.

“Last year, I was pretty much a starter that was in the pen,” he said. “This year I really identify as a reliever, so I think that’s where the velocity is coming from.”

It’s unclear what will happen to Solis when Belisle is ready to return. Solis still has minor league options. Belisle said last week he felt ready, but the Nationals wanted him to keep pitching.

Belisle has logged four rehab appearances, including two innings with Class AA Harrisburg on Tuesday. Harrisburg’s Friday game was suspended because of weather, likely throwing a wrench in Belisle’s plans. Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said the team wants Belisle to do back-to-back outings before they make a decision.

“I’m the one that talks about them but I’m not the only voice that makes the decisions,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of factors in these decisions. There’s contracts, tenure, time involved, who has options and who doesn’t. There’s a fine line between baseball ops and baseball business. I’ll let you know when we get to that point.”

>>> In the fourth inning of Friday’s loss, Trea Turner went first to third on Bryce Harper’s single. At first glance, the speedy Turner made it into third base safely. But the Reds challenged because, for a split second, Turner’s foot came off the bag as he popped up following his slide. Eugenio Suarez’s tag stayed on Turner, and the play was overturned.

“I wish they’d get rid of that rule, to tell you the truth, because it looked like he helped him off the bag as well,” Baker said. “You’re coming off off-balance on the slide. I don’t know if the umpires or players like it. Nobody really likes that. I’m hoping that it’s one of the changes that they make.”

Added Turner: “I actually didn’t know I came off the bag. I was confused why they were challenging it. It’s unfortunate because it could’ve been a big play looking back at it. … A tough play, but it’s baseball. It’s the new rules, and we’ve got to abide by them.”

>>> Before Saturday’s game, Baker also reflected on Muhammad Ali’s death. Baker said he met Ali when he was younger and also later in life when the Reds hosted the annual Civil Rights Game in 2009.

“Muhammad Ali gave us all, especially young black men, a sense of pride and strength,” Baker said. “… It’s a great loss to us all. … He was always a champ. He was always special. I was almost like a little kid really. You don’t know what to say. At that time, you hope that he was able to talk. Earlier, especially when he was younger, you did most of the listening and he did most of that talking.”