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Oakland Athletics: Blake Treinen is a witch for nasty pitch combo, plus a Franklin Barreto note on strikeouts

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Oakland Athletics second baseman Franklin Barreto, center, celebrates with teammates after an 11-2 win against the Chicago White Sox in the first game of a doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago on Friday, June 22, 2018. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

OAKLAND — Oakland Athletics closer Blake Treinen is quickly becoming a sensation among online baseball circles because of his filthy high-90s sinker and sharp slider. He’s been dubbed “The Witch” for the pitch combination.

Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) — who posts daily gifs on Twitter of pitchers making hitters look foolish — is particularly fond of that moniker. Treinen gives him a steady source of content.

Treinen recorded his 21st save of the season Friday night against the Cleveland Indians, dancing out of trouble with two men on by inducing a game-ending fly out. He’s striking out nearly 11 hitters per nine innings, his ERA is 0.89 and his dominance has been a big part of Oakland’s 45-38 record this season.

“His stuff plays,” manager Bob Melvin said. “When he throws it over the plate, he’s gonna have success. Obviously he’s on quite a run at this point, but when he takes the mound you feel great. Sometimes he walks a guy or two but he seems to always be one pitch away [from getting out of it].”

Treinen’s success comes after an up-and-down four-year stint with the Washington Nationals, when he flashed his elite stuff but sometimes struggled to command his pitches. The A’s acquired him in a midseason trade last year in exchange for then-closer Sean Doolittle and setup man Ryan Madson. They also received prospects Sheldon Neuse and Jesus Luzardo in the deal.

As soon as Treinen arrived in Oakland, Melvin asked him if he was comfortable in the closer’s role. Treinen has since proven to be one of the more reliable pitchers in the game in tense situations.

“He’s come a long way since he’s been here,” Melvin said. “There’s a mentality to close that can be difficult for anyone, but that does not seem to be the case with him.”

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Infielder Franklin Barreto, 22, is off to one of the most unusual starts to a career in baseball history.

Through his first 126 plate appearances, he’s struck out 42.9 percent of the time and walked only 4.8 percent of the time. Those numbers are thought to stabilize around 120 plate appearances, so this appears to be more than a fluky outlier.

Barreto’s strikeout rate was frequently above 20 percent in the minor leagues, though it never reached its current MLB level.

Right now, Barreto’s strikeout rate is the fourth-worst among non-pitchers in baseball history, according to FanGraphs. Since 1970, he’s tied for the 19th-worst BB/K mark (0.11).

But Melvin remains unconcerned about the prospect. He emphasized Barreto’s power as a reason for continued optimism.

“When you’re a rookie and you have some power, you’re gonna strike out some,” Melvin said. “He’s got a very high ceiling. I think he’s done really well for us. There have been some games that have been better than others, but for a young guy like that who is one swing away from a three-run homer — which he’s done several times for us here — it means he’s getting more comfortable at the big league level. We like what we’re seeing at this point.

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As expected, injured third baseman Matt Chapman will take on-field swings Sunday. If that goes well, he could return to face the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

Starter Daniel Mengden, who is out with a sprained foot, “feels OK” after throwing on Friday. Melvin said the team is operating cautiously with him moving forward.

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