Reunion in 'pen on tap for Stammen, Blevins
Pitchers were first teammates at University of Dayton before making it in bigs
WASHINGTON -- At one point during the two seasons they played together at the University of Dayton, Jerry Blevins and Craig Stammen took the same communications class. For an assignment, the pitchers staged interviews with each other, with one acting as a Major League general manager and the other as a managerial candidate.
About a decade later, Blevins and Stammen share a different sort of big league connection. They are teammates once again, after Stammen's Nationals acquired Blevins from the A's in a December trade.
"That's such a crazy thought going back," Stammen said on Saturday at NatsFest.
"It's a pretty neat little thing."
The odds of the two pitchers sharing a big league clubhouse, much less a bullpen, were long. Dayton has produced just six players who have reached the game's highest level, and when Blevins debuted in 2007, he was the first Flyer to appear in the Majors since 1969.
Neither had an easy road. Blevins was a 17th-round pick by the Cubs in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, and the Nats took Stammen in the 12th round the following year. Not many players selected that low make the big leagues, but both pitchers have found success out of the bullpen. Stammen, a right-hander, has posted a 2.54 ERA over the past two seasons, while the left-handed Blevins produced a 2.80 mark in Oakland.
When Blevins got the news of his trade to Washington, he naturally reached out to his old friend but got no response. Stammen was on a trip to the Philippines, where it's several hours ahead, and already was asleep.
"I called him and left him a message, like, 'I can't believe you're not calling me. What a jerk,'" Blevins said. "And then I realized that I'm the jerk."
When Stammen got up at around 6 a.m., he found a pile of text messages and emails waiting for him and quickly caught up on the news.
"It was pretty exciting, I tell you what," said Stammen, who has been working to finish up his Dayton degree this offseason. "It's fun to be his teammate again. He's a great teammate, great friend of mine, so it'll be fun to hang out in the bullpen together."
Blevins appears to be the only new addition to a relief corps that desperately needed a solid left-handed presence. Washington began last season with long reliever Zach Duke as its only southpaw and later brought up Fernando Abad and rookie Ian Krol to try to fill that void. All three are now with other teams, and the group's only lefty holdover is Xavier Cedeno, who threw six innings for the Nationals last year.
Blevins, 30, owns a 3.30 ERA over 281 career games, limiting left-handed batters to a .224 average. He also has held his own against righties, who have hit .240 against him, thanks to a changeup and a backdoor cutter that Blevins likes to use.
"I honestly have no preference," Blevins said of his role. "I'll come in to face one batter. The competitive side of me likes to face as many people as I can. I pride myself on being able to get lefties and righties out, but I understand there's a need for lefty-on-lefty matchups, so literally whatever is asked of me, I'll do with a smile on my face."
Blevins already is doing his homework on some of the big left-handed hitters he might face this season. The National League East offers plenty, such as Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward of the defending division-champion Braves.
Off the field, Stammen believes his old -- and new -- teammate will "fit right in," with Washington.
"He's an awesome guy," Stammen said. "He's actually really intellectual and kind of a forward thinker, so I think him and Drew [Storen] are going to get along really well. And obviously he and I will get along really well from our time at Dayton."
Now they won't even have to pretend they're in the big leagues.