Nationals add lefty reliever Thornton through waivers

Nationals add lefty reliever Thornton through waivers

WASHINGTON -- In need of a lefty reliever, the Nationals claimed Matt Thornton off waivers from the Yankees on Tuesday afternoon. The Nationals were able to win the claim for the lefty a few days earlier, but both clubs couldn't work out a deal where more than one player could be exchanged.

Thornton, 37, joins the Nationals after going 0-3 with 12 holds and a 2.55 ERA in 46 appearances for New York. In his 24 2/3 innings with the Yankees, Thornton had not allowed a home run, walked just six and struck out 20.

The Nationals are not sure when he will join the club, but it could be as early as Wednesday. Thornton joins a lefty corps which includes Ross Detwiler and Jerry Blevins. Thornton has a fastball that can go as high as 95 mph. He is not considered a specialist, meaning he will face left-handed and right-handed hitters.

"He gives us another power option out of the bullpen," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He is a hard thrower. He has had great success against lefties and righties in his career.

"He is a former All-Star that is having a terrific year. At a veteran age, he is performing well. His velocity is just about the same. We scouted him intently this season. He has performed admirably. We think it's a great addition to the bullpen."

In 11 big league seasons with the Mariners, White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees, Thornton is 32-45 with 182 holds, 23 saves and a 3.49 ERA in 652 games (one start). When facing left-handed hitters, Thornton's career batting average against is .233 and his opponents' on-base percentage is .297.

The Nationals have been looking for a left-handed reliever since before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They had interest in Andrew Miller, but the Red Sox traded him to the Orioles for left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

Blevins has been hit hard since June 14, allowing 13 runs in 15 2/3 innings over that span entering Tuesday. Detwiler doesn't have the experience of being a late-inning lefty, although manager Matt Williams said recently that Detwiler will be used in important situations.

Once Thornton arrives, the Nationals have to make another roster move. It's not known who would be taken off the 25-man roster, but right-hander Blake Treinen could be the odd man out. He has yet to pitch in a game since he returned to the big leagues last week. He has spent most of the season as a starter in the Minor Leagues, but Williams said he was available to pitch against the Mets on Tuesday.

With the addition of Thornton, the Nationals transferred right-handed pitcher Taylor Jordan to the 60-day disabled list. Jordan is dealing with elbow inflammation and is on a program where he won't be throwing for six weeks. According to Rizzo, there is nothing structurally wrong with Jordan's elbow.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.