Washington was encouraged by right-hander Tyler Clippard's ability to become a quality reliever this past season, when he pitched in 41 games and posted a 2.69 ERA after previously serving as a starter.
How does Baletser, 23, feel about the possibility of having a different role with the Nationals in 2010? He would be willing to be a reliever as long as he is part of the Major League team.
"If I'm a reliever, it doesn't mean I'm going to be a reliever for the rest of my career," Balester said. "I will do anything that is going to help me stay in the big leagues. ... At this point of my career, you want to help the team any way you can. If it's in the bullpen, I want to fill that role for them. Looking at Clippard, it gives you encouragement."
Balester would like to forget about this past season. At the start of Spring Training he believed he would start the season with the big club, but he gave up 15 earned runs in six exhibition games before being assigned to Triple-A Syracuse.
"When I got sent down, I was mad at myself for going in with that kind of attitude, instead of going in saying, 'I'm going to work hard and do it.' I took it for granted," Balester said.
He was less-than-stellar for Syracuse, going 7-10 with a 4.44 ERA in 20 starts. He was promoted to the big leagues in late July and gave up 23 earned runs in 30 1/3 innings before he returned to Syracuse more than a month later.
Then on Sept. 5, the Nationals announced that Balester would miss the rest of the season after he strained his left side.
"Last season was up and down -- a lot more of downs than ups," Balester said. "Last year was a learning season for me. It was one of those years where I just couldn't get it going. It was frustrating as I look back on it. I had that injury at the end of the year. It was frustrating, and I know I'm better than that."
To get better on the mound, Balester came to the conclusion that he needed to improve his mental approach to the game. Too many times, he put a lot of pressure on himself to succeed and had a tough time forgetting about less than stellar outings.
Now, Balester is reading "Getting Focused, Staying Focused" by Alan Jaeger.
"It puts everything is perspective. It helps you forget about failure," Balester said. "It has helped me a lot, and I'm going to get mentally strong."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.