ATLANTA — The season isn’t three weeks old yet, but the Nationals have made a change at closer. Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover will split the duties and replace Blake Treinien, who spent 13 games on the job, Nationals Manager Dusty Baker announced Wednesday.
“What we’re going to do, we’re going to put him back more in a role he’s had success in,” Baker said. “We thought he was ready. He thought he was ready. We’re just going to have to mix and match somewhere between Koda and Kelley as our closer, and then use him in the sixth or seventh or eighth, or wherever is necessary for him to pitch. He realizes it. The day will come when we know he has the stuff to be ready.”
The 28-year-old Treinen made his final appearance as closer Tuesday, and it was disastrous, keeping in line with his performance in the role. The right-hander allowed two hits, walked two and got just one out. One of the walks loaded the bases. The other walked the Braves only run in. Kelley relieved him and managed to escape the jam by getting a flyout and striking out Chase d’Arnaud — twice, thanks to an incorrect call — to earn the save.
The earned run in 1/3 of an inning hiked Treinen’s ERA to 7.11 in 6 1/3 innings across eight games this season. He’s allowed 10 hits, issued six walks, and compiled seven strikeouts. He saved three games. He’ll now return to the setup man/fireman role he excelled in last season, when he posted the second-highest groundball rate and the fourth-best strand rate among relievers in baseball.
Who will close games for the Nationals moving forward will depend on Kelley’s availability. Kelley has posted a 6.00 ERA in seven games while striking out 13.5 batters per nine innings. He struck out 12.4 per nine with a 2.64 ERA in 67 appearances last season. But Washington has been very cautious in handling the 32-year-0ld Kelley — perhaps too cautious for Kelley at times — because he’s had two Tommy John surgeries and wants to have Kelley continue pitching every other game as he has done since debuting April 6.
“You’re treading on dangerous water when you start taking about three times with the same operation,” Baker said. “We’re trying to preserve him. We have a long season. It was all about Kelley’s resiliency. He gets lefties and righties out as a general rule, so that was the only question with him.”
While Kelley will likely be the choice when available, Glover will assume the role when he isn’t. The 24-year-old Glover, who started last season with Class A Potomac, has a 3.18 ERA in 5 2/3 innings this season. He’s walked just one batter and hasn’t given up any of the 10 home runs Washington’s bullpen has allowed this season. Some in the Nationals organization believe Glover is the closer of the future. The future just isn’t the present yet.
“He’s nursing some things, too,” Baker said. “That’s why we don’t just say it’s Koda. But I mean, there are some hitters that have given Koda some problems. … So, yeah, Koda’s even less experienced than Blake. So, yeah, what you want and what you wish might happen sooner, hopefully, rather than later. But we got to win ballgames in the meantime.”