WASHINGTON — The Nationals enter spring training with a familiar need. But just because one specific person hasn’t been designated the team’s closer doesn’t mean that person isn’t already on the roster.
“We’ve got plenty of closer candidates,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 The Fan’s Andy Pollin and Thom Loverro. “We just don’t have anybody with a lot of closing experience. And I think that’s the case. We’ve got guys that certainly have the skill set, the stuff, the mental makeup to pitch at the back end of games and I think that we’re gonna find the right man for the ninth inning that we have here in camp already.”
Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelley and young Koda Glover figure to be among the likely candidates to try out for the closer’s role. This time last year, there was no question about who would close out games: it was Jonathan Papelbon… for a stretch. Eventually, the Nats released Papelbon and swung a deal with the Pirates to acquire Mark Melancon on loan.
“There’s a lot of playoff teams that started the season last year — I think six teams had different closers at the end of the season and into the playoffs than they had at the beginning of the season,” Rizzo said.
“Bullpens, they’re fickle units. It’s a difficult part of the roster to fill, and people forget, we had the second-best bullpen in all of baseball last year and we hope to continue to have a very strong sense of depth and guys that can get guys out at the back end of games.”