Speigner Aiming For Second Chance

The future of one of Washington's Rule 5 draft picks from last December was clouded with uncertainty last week. After being returned to his former club, Minnesota, and then being traded back to Washington, right-hander Levale Speigner is now with Columbus and looking to resolve the pitching problems he faced with the Nationals earlier this season.

After an impressive spring training, Speigner was given his first chance at the major league level in April. However, the Auburn product struggled at getting men out, posting a 2-3 record, along with an 8.78 ERA in 40 IP. Washington designated him for assignment, but because of the stipulations of the Rule 5 draft, he had to be returned to Minnesota. In order to reacquire Speigner, the Nationals were forced to make a trade with the Twins. During this time, Speigner was left with a lot of questions, but not too many answers.

"I just sat around and waited for a phone call basically," Speigner said. "I didn't really know what was going on. There wasn't anything I could do. I knew there were a couple of options, but I just had to sit there and wait."

It goes without saying that the Nationals like what Speigner has to offer and are optimistic about his future. In the trade with Minnesota, Washington gave up outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was in the International League's top 10 in batting average at .315 and was the Clippers' RBI leader with 41. Although the trade was a logical move considering Washington's surplus of talented outfielders, the move indicates Washington's insistence on keeping Speigner in the organization. While talking with CapitolDugout.com Wednesday, Speigner was pleased with his opportunity to stay with the club.

"It's nice. Obviously, it was disappointing to not pitch well enough to stay with the big-league club, but that's part of it and I'm happy to be here now. I'll try to get things straightened out."

During his time in Columbus, Speigner hopes to work on a few specific things with his mechanics, but mainly he is focusing on his consistency.

"That's my biggest thing—work on consistent arm slots, consistent off-speed, and trusting my stuff," Speigner said. "I need to get it back in my head where I can see a spot and hit a spot and not have to try to add more to whatever I'm trying to throw to get a hitter out."

As a result of dealing with a depleted pitching staff early in the season, the Nationals called on Speigner to join the starting rotation on May 16. At the time, Washington manager Manny Acta's other alternative was to promote one of the Nationals' up-and-coming prospects such as Collin Balester, but he chose to be patient with those prospects' development. Speigner started and struggled, but he said that the experience should help him with his mentality out of the bullpen.

"[Starting] was a big hurdle actually," Speigner said. "It really showed me that I had to work on consistency with my off-speed pitches. It helped for when I did come back to the bullpen to know that I have to be more consistent as soon as I come in."

For now, the Georgia native said that his future as a starter is unclear, but that he will need to work on developing more pitches if he does find himself in that role again. Instead, he plans to focus on his job as a reliever. Coming out of the bullpen for Washington, Speigner's ERA was 4.41—not spectacular, but much more respectable than his ERA as a starter. 

Despite several tough outings and his inability to find a groove on the mound, Speigner is confident that he benefited significantly from his first stop at the majors.

"It was great to see big-league hitters and realize that I could match-up with guys," Speigner said. "It was up and down for me, but I had some good things happen where now the shock value of pitching to big-league hitters isn't as big. You're still trying to force things every now and then, but as far as understanding and knowing that I can pitch at a big-league level, I have confidence that I can do that now."

Baseball has always been known as a game that is as much mental as it is physical, and success on the diamond is usually characterized by a great deal of mental toughness. Speigner elaborated on this fact and on his own efforts at sharpening his pitching mentality.

"That's what you have to get past and that's what I was working so hard to get past: when a big hitter steps into the box, to get past the mental block that you have to do more than what you have done to get there," Speigner said. "If you make your pitches, you're going to get results. Obviously, they're going to hit better pitches sometimes, but most of the time if you make your pitches, you're going to get good results."

Although he has only had one appearance with Columbus thus far, it is safe to say that the uncertainty of last week and the struggles at the major league level have not flustered the 26-year-old. In Monday's game, Speigner came on to pitch 1 2/3 hitless innings. Still, he was unsatisfied with allowing one of his inherited runners to score.

"I was a little rusty last night, so it felt good to work a little bit of that off," Speigner said. "I didn't really like giving up the run I gave up. I hate coming in and giving up guys' runs. That's the thing as a reliever, you have to come in right then and shut the door."

Speigner still has time to turn into a quality middle reliever, and he may be a guy that Washington soon relies on to shut the door night in and night out.

Capitol Dugout Top Stories