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Adjusting nicely to bullpen, Solis thrilled about trip home

May 11, 2015, 9:07 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

PHOENIX — When he was called up two weeks ago to make his major-league debut, Sammy Solis immediately checked out the Nationals’ upcoming schedule and couldn’t help but notice the next road trip he’d make: Phoenix and San Diego, his hometown and his college town.

“It’s the road trip of a lifetime for me,” the left-hander said before Monday evening’s series opener against the Diamondbacks. “I’m here at home. I had breakfast with my parents and grandparents this morning. And then I get to travel to San Diego and see my college buddies. It’s exciting.”

If only Solis could have waited one more day to achieve a major milestone and earn his first career win in Arizona instead of Washington.

“No, it doesn’t matter to me,” he said with a laugh. “The sooner, the better for that.”

Solis crossed that one off the checklist Sunday when he pitched a scoreless top of the eighth against the Braves at Nationals Park and then watched his teammates score three runs in the bottom of the inning en route to a 5-4 victory. The 26-year-old reliever was so excited about the comeback, he didn’t realize what the win meant for him until teammates started walking up to him offering congratulations.

“I had no idea, honestly,” he said. “It didn’t even cross my mind until the game was over. I had no idea. I was just hoping for a win for the team, and then when I found out that I got my first one, it was pretty special.”

These two weeks have been pretty special for Solis, a surprise contributor to the Nationals’ bullpen. A starter since he was taken with the first pitch of the second round of the 2010 draft out of the University of San Diego, he only began working as a reliever last month, with the organization trying to help him advance after several years of arm injuries.

The transition has proven remarkably smooth for Solis. He has yet to allow a run in three appearances totaling six innings, giving up three singles without issuing a walk.

The role may be new, but the formula for success hasn’t changed. Solis possesses a mid-90s fastball and a sharp-breaking curve, but first and foremost he relies on command. And he’s been able to carry that over to the big-league level, throwing 70 percent of his pitches (55-of-79) for strikes so far.

“When it comes down to it, it’s still baseball,” he said. “The bullpen is a little different, and I’m sure I’m still adjusting to that. It’s obviously a little more fast-paced, a little more competitive. The players are obviously a little stronger, a little faster. So adjusting to that was a little different. But I think I’m settling in well. I feel pretty comfortable right now.”

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