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Rookie Grace leaning on vets as he adjusts to majors

May 8, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

Apr 22, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Matt Grace (60) pitches during the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park. St. Louis Cardinals defeated Washington Nationals 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals rookie reliever Matt Grace has only made seven appearances since getting his first call-up on April 22, but so far so good. The 26-year-old lefty is yet to allow a run through four innings and has made the initial adjustment look rather easy.

The former eighth round pick is trying to learn as much as he can as quickly as possible, as he understands it’s one thing to reach the majors, it’s another thing to stay.

“I’m trying to learn things on the fly, learn the little things from guys who have been here. Guys like [Matt] Thornton and [Aaron] Barrett and some of those older guys, [Tanner] Roark and [Drew] Storen, all those guys in the ‘pen. Just trying to pick up things,” he said.

Grace is particularly fond of what Thornton can provide, as the 38-year-old veteran has been around for 12 MLB seasons. Thornton defies his age with high-90s fastballs and it takes lots of hard work to preserve that skill.

“I try to be as close to Thornton as possible and at least just hear what he’s trying to say,” Grace explained. “It’s not an easy thing to do to compete at this level for that long, like he’s done and like a lot of guys on this team have done. You kind of try to pick up things and see what’s made them successful. It is a difficult thing, especially to have that longevity.”

Grace had a breakout season in the Nationals’ minor league system in 2014 with a 1.17 ERA in 50 games across Double-A and Triple-A. That earned him a closer look this spring and early this season when he got the call to Washington.

Grace is one of several Nationals relievers to debut already this year. Sammy Solis, Rafael Martin and Felipe Rivero have also reached the majors for the first time this season, all within one month of each other. Grace says the transition has been easier with those guys around.

“I think it makes it a little easier to be in the same situation as some of the other guys. Like Solis is up here right now and Felipe and some of those younger guys like [Blake] Treinen, who had some experience last year. It makes it a little easier to have guys who are in the same situation you are,” he said.

They are all in the same boat, getting used to the facilities and resources available at the big league level. The difference between the minors and the majors is significant, and Grace is just trying to soak it all in.

“It’s night and day. This is what you strive for. This is why all of us play, to play at this level. Once you get here, you realize why. You realize how special it is and how awesome of an opportunity to be here it is.”

 

  1. ehay2k - May 8, 2015 at 6:41 AM

    So, if he becomes our closer (unlikely since he’s a lefty), then would that make him our saving Grace?
    (running, ducking)

    • ArVAFan - May 8, 2015 at 8:41 AM

      +1

      Nice start to the comments first thing in the a.m.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 8, 2015 at 9:06 AM

      Amazing.

      • adcwonk - May 8, 2015 at 9:11 AM

        and *another* +1 !

  2. laddieblahblah - May 8, 2015 at 6:42 AM

    Thanks, Chase, for the Harper thread last night. Those guys have it all together, especially Bryce. My favorite thread on NI, ever. We are looking at a breakout year for Bryce, and for the team, as well.

  3. ehay2k - May 8, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    Mark Z, in the blogroll, there is at least one dead blog – Amanda Comak’s last post was from Clippard’s arb hearing. And since Teddy has won… (but that blog is still breathing)

  4. rayvil01 - May 8, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    Who says Lefties can’t close? Miller with the Yanks is 12 for 12 this year. Closed Baltimore out last night. (You know that had to sting old Buck.)

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 7:45 AM

      +1 and I enjoyed every minute of it.

    • virginiascopist - May 8, 2015 at 7:51 AM

      And, of course, Chapman in Cincinnati. Also Doolittle in Oakland, if he ever gets back. Speaking of Oakland, Tyler Clippard had a 5-out, 1-run save earlier this week in Minnesota.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 8, 2015 at 7:58 AM

        Clipp came in with men on the corners in the bottom of the 8th with one out, got them out of that jam without a run scoring, then had a 1,2,3 ninth.Best relief appearance by the A’s pen this year, Their bullpen is awful other than Tyler.

      • Section 222 - May 8, 2015 at 11:59 AM

        Let’s not forget Billy Wagner — 422 career saves, including 37 in 2010, his 16th and last season. That year in 71 appearances he had a 1.43 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. Wow.

    • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 8:23 AM

      Speaking of the Oreos, I watched them play the Mets a few days ago and in the game they put up a graphic of teams odds to win the World Series. They conveniently excluded the Nats from the graphic. Keeping it classy MASN!

      • Dave - May 8, 2015 at 1:57 PM

        I loathe the entire MASN deal, as I’m sure most of us do. Weasels in Baltimore, stealing the Nats’ money.

      • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 3:41 PM

        Its just so obvious when they diss the Nats. We all know the Nats were #1 on the World Series lines in Las Vegas.

        At least this year they arent claiming Washington DC as Birdland. What a blatant slap in the Lerners face.

  5. thenattyprofessor - May 8, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    If he can handle the stress of closing, is that an example of Grace OVER pressure?

    • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 8:25 AM

      Yes.

    • ehay2k - May 8, 2015 at 8:38 AM

      +1

    • thewerthwhisperer - May 8, 2015 at 9:08 AM

      Amazing Grace

  6. nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Who saw the wrap on the Giants/Marlins game last night? I watched the first 2 innings before I fell asleep. It was Haren vs Mr. Ice In His Veins. Ice In His Veins gave up 15 hits and 6 earned runs over 6 2/3 innings. Haren went 7 innings giving up 2 runs and got the W.

    Morse went 2 for 4 and was greeted by his former Giants teammates before the game with hugs all around. Morse raised his average above .200.

    The biggest suprize to me is how well Haren is pitching this season. The man who threatened retirement has a 2.68 ERA and is 4-1 on the season.

    Who saw that coming.

    • virginiascopist - May 8, 2015 at 8:54 AM

      Haren is good for half a season (last year it was the first half, with us it was the second half; I can’t remember which half it was the previous year with the Angels). It’s too bad it looks like it’s the first half this year because when he goes south should be right around the time Fernandez comes back.

      • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 8:58 AM

        Unfortunately hes been the bright spot so far for the Fish and keeping them near .500

        Was hoping the Oreos could do us a favor and beat the Mutts and the Oreos got swept and was hoping the Gigantes could do a 4 game sweep of the Fish and now that wont happen.

        Tonight is Cole Hamels vs Matt Harvey.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 8, 2015 at 9:41 AM

      Mr. Haren also got two hits, scored two runs, and drove in two runs.

      • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 9:43 AM

        He did start off great for the Dodgers last year then hit the wall. Thats all the Marlins need as they will have Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez back at some point.

        Some pitchers will have to leave and time will tell if its Haren.

    • Doc - May 8, 2015 at 11:43 AM

      Great read on the human spirit.

  7. natsjackinfl - May 8, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    Went to the P-Nats games yesterday. Saw Reynaldo Lopez throw 5 solid innings of 2 hit shutout ball with no walks. Not bad for his 1st high A effort.

    Casey Jannsen threw the first inning for his 1st rehab assignment. He pitched from the wind up and I doubt he does that normally. He threw nothing but strikes, all fast balls except for his last pitch which was a swinging 3rd strike to end the inning.

    McCatty, Knor and Mark Scialabba (Minor League Operations Director) were in attendance.

    Top guys I saw that look like future players for the big club are 3rd baseman Drew Ward and outfielder Isaac Ballou.

    • natsjackinfl - May 8, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      I should note that Jannsen pitched the 1st inning of the 2nd game while Lopez pitched the 1st game.

      • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 9:17 AM

        Very nice day for you. Some kid named Lucas Giolito is pitching today.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 9:39 AM

      Drew Ward has that potential but interesting that you think Isaac Ballou has big league potential. I’ve seen him as a fringe bench guy.

      • natsjackinfl - May 8, 2015 at 9:50 AM

        I base it on where he was 2 years ago and how much he’s improved.

        But like the other 24 and 25 year olds on the P-Nats, the development needs to come quick. Ballou looks like his development has accelerated.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 10:02 AM

        Good to hear. It would be nice to see some of these homegrown position players excel through the system.

        Difo and Ward and Reetz are the bats I like.

    • ArVAFan - May 8, 2015 at 10:14 AM

      Natsjack: thank you for the first-hand eyeball report. Accept no substitutes!

  8. Theophilus T.S. - May 8, 2015 at 9:20 AM

    Who can’t like the look of the Nats’ BP right now? Young — in terms of experience — guys like Grace, Solis, Treinen, Barrett (much improved), Martin, Rivero who, if they can keep up their performance, will fill important roles — with little turnover and at low cost — for several years. No more Joe Beimels, etc. Much better to grow your own rather than scraping the FA barrel every year.

    • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 9:21 AM

      Martin is back in AAA and I thought Rivero is on the DL.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 8, 2015 at 11:35 AM

        Martin had one good/great outing, one awful outing. Sent down because The Brain Trust wanted a LH (Grace). It doesn’t mean he won’t be part of the future. He will have other opportunities. In the recent past the Nats haven’t had many relievers in the minor leagues that were worthy of the opportunity.

    • virginiascopist - May 8, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      Agreed about growing our own. However, I regard Thornton as an excellent pick-up, and expect (knock on wood) Janssen to be a nice stabilizing factor once he joins the club.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 9:37 AM

        Need veteran leadership which Thornton provides.

        The Cardinals have similarly built their bullpens like that and have made painful decisions converting starters to big bullpen arms but they were also successful turning some releievers back to starters like Waino.

    • Section 222 - May 8, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      I’m not nearly as bullish about our pen. Too many guys pitching for the first time in the bigs. It remains to be seen how well they can do once the league gets a chance to see them. Martin faded fast. And Treinen has been a disappointment so far.

      • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 12:38 PM

        When Jannsen comes back someone will be headed to AAA. I also remain skeptical of any new player who hasnt been up long enough to allow the scouts to pass there infomation along and allow the team to strategize. Rafael Martin went from a dazzle of a debut to a fizzle of a flip-flop. It happens all the time.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - May 8, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    http://washington.cbslocal.com/2015/05/07/mccloughan-raves-about-bryce-harper-says-hed-make-a-great-strong-safety/

    I didn’t know the Redskins GM was in the suite at the Caps game with Harp.

    I’m a tortured old-school Redskins fan and I hope McCloughan gets Bryce to a Skins game dressed in burgundy and gold.

    Also cool that McCloughan is attending Nats games and his own history of having played for Hagerstown!

    • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      ” I hope McCloughan gets Bryce to a Skins game dressed in burgundy and gold.”

      That I want to see! I can tell you that all preseason and September games have timing conflicts and that none of them work in the Schedule unless Bryce takes the off-day to travel up the the Meadowlands for the Thursday Night game on September 24th which would be doubtful. Most likely an off-season thing or just a trip down to Redskins Park for practice.

      Bryce and Reed Johnson can head over together.

  10. masterfishkeeper - May 8, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    Interestingly, ESPN’s schedule shows that Robbie Ray will start against the Nats on Tuesday.

    • nats128 - May 8, 2015 at 11:03 AM

      Thats intresting. I thought his callup was just for the 1 game doubleheader they had. Are they keeping him up?

      • masterfishkeeper - May 8, 2015 at 11:45 AM

        He’s not on the 25 man roster, so I think you must be right.

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