Bullpen shines in Scherzer's stead

Relievers stymie Mets as ace pitches simulated game

Bullpen shines in Scherzer's stead

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With rain in the forecast and the need for multiple relievers to get work, the Nationals scratched right-hander Max Scherzer from his start Wednesday afternoon against the Mets. Instead, Scherzer threw at the team's Minor League complex in Viera, and the Nationals elected to use Wednesday's Grapefruit League finale as a bullpen day.

Right-hander Trevor Gott was the first of nine pitchers who combined for a 12-1 victory against the Mets at Tradition Field.

"We didn't want to keep the whole bullpen back there to throw there," manager Dusty Baker said. "They certainly needed some work here, because of the rainouts. We decided it would be better to throw Max back there in a simulated game, and we'll do a bullpen game here."

And the Nationals received a trio of strong performances from the presumptive three leading candidates to fill the final spots in the bullpen.

Gott tossed two scoreless innings despite yielding three hits and a walk. Left-hander Sean Burnett, a non-roster invitee, continued to make a strong case with a pair of strikeouts in another scoreless outing. He has not allowed a run in 8 2/3 innings this spring. And Blake Treinen retired the only two batters he faced in the fifth inning.

Burnett's scoreless inning

"I've got a pretty good idea now," Baker said before the game. "But you don't really have a full idea until you get into competition. People are different under stress. We've got a pretty good idea. Just hope our ideas match the performance."

Washington has had four of its past 11 games washed away by inclement weather, which has prevented its pitchers from throwing as many innings as the club had hoped. By allowing Scherzer to throw back in Viera, the Nationals were able to avoid a repeat of Tuesday, when Stephen Strasburg's start was shortened because of rain. Scherzer has also said in the past that he would rather limit the number of times he faces a division rival during Spring Training.

But mostly, Wednesday gave Baker a chance to see many of the pitchers competing for the final spots in the bullpen in action.

"They're always tough," Baker said about the final roster decisions. "Now, they're always tough on the good teams. On the good teams, they're really tough because you probably have more good players.

"And it's tougher here, because I've had six weeks to learn people. It's always tough on a new team. On other teams, you've got a year or two of experience with those players. Or I had seen them in the Minor Leagues, and I'd seen their progress. Here, I had to go on hearsay or attitudes, how they look, the opinions of the organization."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.