Nov 2, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2016: 24
How acquired: Traded with C Jose Lobaton and OF Drew Vettleson from Tampa Bay for RHP Nate Karns, Feb. 2014
MLB service time: 161 days
2015 salary+bonuses: $507,500
Contract status: Under team control in 2016, likely Super-2 arbitration-eligible in 2018, free agent in 2022
2015 stats: 49 G, 48.1 IP, 35 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 2 HR, 11 BB, 43 K, 0.952 WHIP, 2 SV, 1 BS, 2-1, 2.79 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 1.2 WAR
Quotable: “This year has been kind of a blessing for me. I got my first win and my first save in the same year. I wasn’t expecting that.” — Felipe Rivero
2015 analysis: An afterthought in spring training, Felipe Rivero caught his big break after the Nationals decided to covert him into a reliever. A starter throughout his minor-league career, the left-hander embraced the change of roles, recognizing it could help him reach Washington faster. Which is exactly what happened.
With the Nationals bullpen in shambles in April, Rivero earned a quick promotion. He wound up requiring a DL stint while recovering from dangerous bleeding in his gastrointestinal system, but once healthy he took off.
Initially used as a long man, Rivero over time developed into more of a 1-inning setup man. That allowed him to reach back and throw everything he had in short bursts, including a 99-mph fastball by season’s end. He impressed the Nationals’ coaching staff and front office, even earning a couple of saves during the final week, and positioning himself to hold a significant role in next year’s bullpen.
2016 outlook: The Nationals have all kinds of relief questions heading into next season, but Rivero isn’t one of them. He was a revelation, a left-hander with a power arm and poise when summoned to pitch in big spots late in games.
Rivero certainly has the arsenal and moxie to suggest he could be an MLB closer at some point. For now, the Nationals will probably look at him more in a setup role, happy to have a lefty who can retire batters from both sides of the plate (lefties hit .198 off him, righties hit .200).
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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