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UPDATED: Nats acquire lefty Thornton off waivers

Aug 5, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

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Updated at 5:15 p.m.

Trying to bolster a talented bullpen that has appeared worn down in recent weeks, the Nationals acquired veteran left-hander Matt Thornton off waivers from the Yankees.

The Nationals aren’t giving up a player in a trade for Thornton; they simply were awarded a waiver claim and thus are responsible only for picking up his contract. The 37-year-old reliever is owed roughly $1 million for the rest of this season, then another $3.5 million in 2015.

Thornton provides the Nationals a veteran left-hander with a longstanding track record. He owns a 2.55 ERA in 46 appearances this season, striking out 20 while walking only six in 24 2/3 innings. Used primarily as a match-up specialist in New York, he has held left-handed hitters to a .556 OPS this season.

Over an 11-year career spent mostly with the White Sox, though,Thornton has enjoyed success against both lefties and righties, producing a 3.49 ERA while holding right-handed hitters to a .241 batting average and left-handed hitters to a .234 batting average.

“He’s having one of his best years,” manager Matt Williams said. “His splits are good, lefty-righty. Fastball velocity is really good. And he’s been there and he’s done that. Pitched in the playoffs and has that experience under his belt. He just adds veteran leadership and veteran presence to the bullpen. But he can do both roles. He can face righties as well.”

Thornton was en route from New York to Washington late Tuesday afternoon, Williams said, so it was unclear if he would make it in time for the series opener against the Mets. For now, he’s not listed on the Nationals’ active roster for the game, with the rest of the bullpen intact. One of those relievers, most likely Blake Treinen, will need to be removed once Thornton arrives.

“Certainly when stuff like this happens, there’s a lot to do in a short period of time,” Williams said. “So we don’t know exactly when he’ll be here. He’ll be activated when he does get here. We just don’t know when that will be.”

To clear space on their 40-man roster for Thornton, the Nationals transferred Class AAA right-hander Taylor Jordan from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.

Thornton bolsters a bullpen that has looked worn down in recent weeks. One of the majors’ most-effective relief corps through the season’s first half, that group has given up 18 runs over its last 20 2/3 innings. Several key pitchers — notably Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen — all have needed multiple days off in the last week due to excessive use.

“I think the biggest pressing issue with that is lack of days off,” said Williams, whose team is in the middle of a stretch of 17 consecutive game days. “Games dictate how you pitch guys and what you do, certainly the back of your bullpen. But the lack of days off will push that even further. So, does [Thornton] help in that regard? Yeah. His innings count is down this year, as compared to his appearances. So he’s fresh. So it’ll do nothing but help.”

  1. water47 - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Nice move. Let’s hope it is a straight waiver claim with the Nats taking on his salary for the rest of his deal.

    • sjm308 - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      agree with that, I would hate to think it cost us a prospect of any type.

  2. sjm308 - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    This shows me Rizzo is constantly looking. Not sure who will go off the 25 man roster but I am guessing it has to be a relief pitcher. Two moves in two days tells the players that management will help if possible. Thornton is not lights out but he has pitched mostly in the AL so he will be new to most teams we face. Certainly a veteran and I think he has one year of post season experience and an All-Star appearance as well. My guess is Stammen or Det to the 15 day DL but what do I know?

    Go Nats!

  3. natsfan1a - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    Cool.

  4. water47 - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Hmm… Nats needed 2b/3b and left reliever. Et Viola… “In Rizzo We Trust”

  5. David Proctor - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    Taylor Jordan to 60 day DL. That clears a 40 man spot, but not a 25 man one.

  6. veejh - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    I thought waiver claims were just that….claim a guy and you assume their contract, nothing more.

    • water47 - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      That is one option now as these are revocable. So, if you do not work out a deal then the placing team can pull him back. Now, if they place him back on waivers it becomes non-revocable and first to claim him get the player and takes on the salary.

  7. scnatsfan - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    I agree, Stammen woke up this morning with shoulder soreness… whether he knows it or not.

  8. Section 222 - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    Which one? :-)

  9. jd - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    scnatsfan

    I disagree completely. Stammen is going through a tough patch now as he has in the past but he almost always comes out of it and provides value. How often has he come in when the starer has struggled and saved the bullpen while giving the team a chance to win?

    Now if you want to DFA Blevins I,m in favor of that.

    • scnatsfan - Aug 5, 2014 at 6:02 PM

      Somebody has to go and I suspect it won’t be a dfa

  10. David Proctor - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    I didn’t realize Thornton averaged 96mph with the fastball. Why doesn’t he miss more bats?

    • jd - Aug 5, 2014 at 3:55 PM

      I velo would be the only criteria Mc.Dougal would be in the HOF. He threw 100 fairly often.

    • Smyrcok - Aug 5, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      He throws a sinker right? Maybe the same reason Treinen doesn’t strike em out with his 97?

      • David Proctor - Aug 5, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        Yeah, he gets a lot of grounders and hasn’t allowed a homer all year. That’s sort of fluky, he’ll allow a homer at some point, but he doesn’t give up many. It’s interesting because Blevins is an extreme FB pitcher. Thornton is opposite.

  11. scnatsfan - Aug 5, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Yankee fans aren’t shedding many tears on their boards about him leaving

    • David Proctor - Aug 5, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      He’s been bad with inherited runners. That may have something to do with it

  12. thomaswell - Aug 5, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    which of the relievers are we allowed to send down?

  13. exposedindc - Aug 5, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    Only guarantee in this move is I’m sure FP will says he’s the best lefty reliever ….. EVER

  14. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 5, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    Question: Will Nats use him as a LOOGY? If so, why not do with same with Jerry Blevins?

  15. Joe Seamhead - Aug 6, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    I think it will be Treinin going back down.

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