US Presswire photo
Sean Burnett hasn't surrendered a run in six appearances this spring.
It should be noted, however, that the Nationals' bullpen has quietly dominated this spring.
Combine the Grapefruit League stats of their top five relievers (Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez) and you get a 1.45 ERA, a sparkling 1.03 WHIP and a 32-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio that gives manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty plenty of reason to smile.
And it's not only those five stalwarts who have pitched well. Total up the numbers for six relievers who likely won't make the Opening Day roster (Craig Stammen, Chad Durbin, Ryan Mattheus, Ryan Perry, Atahualpa Severino and Jeff Fulchino) and you get a 2.32 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.
Suffice it to say, the Nationals have plenty of pitching depth, particularly in the bullpen.
And that depth should help them overcome the potential loss of Storen early in the season. The club hasn't yet ruled its closer out for Opening Day, but he's scheduled to resume a throwing program today after missing time with elbow inflammation and there's probably not enough time for him to get in the requisite work needed to begin the season April 5.
The Nationals aren't particularly worried about losing Storen for a couple of weeks in April, nor should they be. They've got two capable fill-in closers in Lidge (1.50 ERA, eight strikeouts, zero walks) and Rodriguez (0.00 ERA, seven strikeouts, two walks). And they've always got the electric Clippard pitching his way out of seventh- and eighth-inning jams.
And they've certainly got several viable choices in camp to fill Storen's roster spot to open the season, with Mattheus most likely to hold down that spot until the young closer returns.
Really, the only somewhat questionable aspect of the Nationals' bullpen may be its long men. The club plans to begin the season with Tom Gorzelanny and Ross Detwiler serving in those roles; neither has a lot of experience pitching in relief, though Gorzelanny performed well there last season and he's performed much better this spring following a disastrous debut in which he gave up seven runs in one inning.
Detwiler seems less comfortable with his situation, pointing out yesterday how important routine is to him. Johnson will attempt to keep him on something of a starter's throwing schedule, though, so that may help the young lefty cope with his unfamiliar role.
In the end, those are minor questions for the Nationals. They have to be pleased the way their bullpen as a whole has pitched this spring and how the unit sets up entering the season.