Friday, February 15, 2013

How important is a lefty reliever?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bill Bray is competing for a spot in the Nationals' bullpen.
VIERA, Fla. -- When Davey Johnson looked to his bullpen last season and wanted to summon a left-hander, he had no shortage of options. Sean Burnett was one of the best setup men in baseball. Mike Gonzalez was a seasoned veteran capable of retiring some of the game's toughest left-handed sluggers. And Tom Gorzelanny was versatile enough to pitch four innings or face one batter in a big spot.

All three of those southpaws, of course, are now wearing different uniforms, leaving the Nationals without one slam-dunk lefty for their 2013 relief corps.

As far as team officials are concerned, this is nothing to worry about.

"We're going to go with the best guys," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "The amount of left-handed relievers has never been a priority to me. Mostly because we've got right-handers that can get left-handers out. And it coincides with Davey's managerial style."

Indeed, the Nationals have three right-handed relievers who enjoyed strong success against left-handed hitters last season: Tyler Clippard (.170 opponents' batting average), Craig Stammen (.198) and Ryan Mattheus (.241).

All three are perfectly comfortable facing tough sluggers standing in the left side of the batter's box, and all three would be comfortable if asked to hold that role this season without a traditional lefty in their pen.

"One thing I definitely won't do is change my approach against lefties," Mattheus said. "Because I didn't even know I was that successful against lefties before. I'm probably just going to go about it the same way I always have, not put any added pressure. But it's definitely going to be different if I have to go in just to get a lefty out. That would be a different situation."

There are several left-handers in camp, and there is a chance one or two could crack the Opening Day roster, though not necessarily in a traditional specialist role.

Zach Duke, a starter his entire career, is penciled in as Johnson's long reliever and emergency starter. He could essentially replace Gorzelanny, though he could also be asked to do much more.

"I was joking with [bench coach] Randy Knorr the other day, saying I'm going to have to wear three different hats down there this year," Duke said. "I've got to take over Burnett, Gorzelanny and Gonzalez's spots. Whatever that entails, whether it's throwing 3-4 innings at a time or coming in for one inning or one out, I feel confident that I'll be able to get the job done."

The Nationals also brought Bill Bray back to the organization, signing their 2004 first-round pick to a minor-league deal and giving him a chance to earn a roster spot.

Bray, one of eight players involved in the 2006 trade with the Reds that brought Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to Washington, would serve as more of a traditional lefty specialist, often entering to face only one batter. He's had success in that role when healthy. And, not surprisingly, he believes it's important for all bullpens to employ at least one pitcher like himself.

"I would think it's very important, because there's always situations that come up in a game where managers like to do the matchups," Bray said. "Especially in the NL East, where you have guys like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Late in the game, I definitely think it's beneficial to have somebody who can come in specifically for that role."

Bray may think it's important, but the two men who have the greatest say in assembling the Nationals' roster might not feel the same way. Odds are, Rizzo and Johnson will head north with no late-inning left-hander, perhaps suggesting the whole idea of a southpaw specialist is overrated.

"I don't know if it's overrated," Mattheus said. "A lot of managers like to do it, and I'm not going to question what they do. But I think the guys down there with the stuff they have in our bullpen, I don't think it really matters whether they're lefties or righties. You could literally go 1-through-7 with guys who throw 95 mph. That's tough to hit from either side of the plate."

48 comments:

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

sjm308 said...
As an owner of 13 different national's hats I also am not a fan of the new Spring Training hat. Will probably pass on that. I think each year they have a new design and I had been sent an early email on the various new hats and their grades by some company. Not all have the white front but lots do.
Like I said, I am passing on this.

Go Nats!!!

February 15, 2013 9:58 AM


These caps will also be the BP cap for this season. Keep in mind, MLB determines the changeover of caps and all teams changed. The motivation? MONEY!

These aren't the cheap GEICO giveaway caps but they look like it. These are just better materials.

I don't really care either way. Some will like it and some won't but generally the "look" grows on you.

MicheleS said...

excellent article on Storen by Kilgore on Wapo.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/nationals-pitcher-drew-storen-accepts-his-2012-failure-in-game-5-and-now-moves-on-to-2013/2013/02/14/530932b8-76f4-11e2-aa12-e6cf1d31106b_story.html

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I'm hearing conflicting news on Bray. Is his groin injury from last year still bothering him?

natsfan1a said...

Okay, for all you Tweeter people (both in and out of jail), was just looking at the Florida Today site and saw that they have a special Tweeter handle for Spring Training Nats news.

https://twitter.com/NatsRundown

You're welcome. :-)

NatsLady said...

Forgot to say Happy Birthday to Tyler Clippard. He was born on Valentine's Day... :)

NatsJack in Florida said...

About the best thing I can say for the hats is they are fitted by size instead of S,M,L,XL with elastic.

SCNatsFan said...

Ghost, from all the articles I read about Bray this morning it seems he's altered his delivery either of because the way the injury healed or because he is afraid to reinjure it. Seems like he needs time with the pitching coaches to sort it out but the first thing I thought when I read the articles was there was no way he opens the season in DC. Others might have read the articles differently but that was my take.

EmDash said...

Off-topic, but this article made me think about the draft a little bit - anyone else think this guy sounds like the prototypical Nats' kind of choice? *g*

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

SCNatsFan said...
Ghost, from all the articles I read about Bray this morning it seems he's altered his delivery either of because the way the injury healed or because he is afraid to reinjure it.

Seems like he needs time with the pitching coaches to sort it out but the first thing I thought when I read the articles was there was no way he opens the season in DC. Others might have read the articles differently but that was my take.


With all the options Davey has for the bullpen, it is better not to rush Bray who has no options.

With guys like Bray and Ohman who signed on with MiLB deals, the team can start them in the Minors. They don't have that same option with Henry as he either starts on the 25 man or goes on the DL or goes on waivers.

Duke, Stammen, Mattheus, VACANT, Clippard, Storen, Soriano

I only see one opening with Bray, Ohman, Henry, Kimball as the top guys for the spot.

It sounds like Christian Garcia won't be considered for the bullpen right now.

Tcostant said...

You new bargin shopping NY Yankees:

http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/yankees/bombers_keeping_tabs_on_free_agent_nrxvGl82YZYOA8hhjc1saI

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Here's the bullpen as I envision it today with 6 spots set and 1 open:

Duke
Stammen
Mattheus
-VACANT-
Clippard
Storen
Soriano

That 1 spot appears to be the only opening on the entire Opening Day roster.

Still hoping it goes to Javier Vazquez.

sm13 said...

I'd like to see Chistian Garcia in that vacant spot. He can stretch out as a long man and fill in in late innimgs if needed. If he looks good in multiple inning appearances maybe he can then transition to starter for 2014. For now, he has high value in the pen.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Bray said. “If I stay healthy, really that’s all I’m worried about. A lot of people ask, ‘Do you expect to have good stats this year?’ I expect to be healthy. If I’m healthy, I’ll do my job. And I’m very confident that I’ll make this team.”

Candide said...

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Duke
Stammen
Mattheus
-VACANT-
Clippard
Storen
Soriano


Ignorant question: If HRod doesn't get that vacant spot, he's out of options and therefore gone, correct?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

sm13, don't worry about Garcia. He will be in the 'pen comes September callups and the postseason as they will only need 4 starters for the postseason.

He was a pleasant surprise last season. I think Rizzo doesn't see the urgency with him right now and they want to see what he has as a starter.

UnkyD said...

Soriano got his papers... Should show tomorrow, according to bleacher report...

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Candide, choices on Henry are like they were last year:

1. On the active MLB roster
2. On the DL

or

3. they could waive him and hope he passes through waivers which doesn't have a high likelihood. If he passed through waivers they could put him back in the Minors.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

UnkyD, that's great news.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Candide, HRod is out of options, and must pass through waivers if they want to send him down, BUT ... there's always the DL.

Personally, I don't see the point in [messing] with whatever chances he has for an actual job at this point. Either keep the guy or give him a chance for himself. Wang was on his last chance--Henry might still find someone who will give him a shot.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Sec, I think you owe me a Diet Coke. LOL

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

So, if he doesn't make the 25-man, and he'd have to be PFB Henry to do that, I think, then I expect they'll ask waivers for sending him to Syracuse, and if another team doesn't waive their right to claim him, maybe they can work out a deal for Slider Dykstra, or maybe Sinker Dykstra, or even Bugs Bunny Dykstra.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

That doesn't count, my server is hanging today, took a long time to post that.
; )

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Sec3, I love it!

As much as I'm not a Henry fan, I wouldn't want to face him. I say the only way to part ways is to trade him to an AL team for a low level Draft Pick or as you so aptly said "maybe they can work out a deal for Slider Dykstra, or maybe Sinker Dykstra, or even Bugs Bunny Dykstra".

Exactly what I am thinking.

Doc said...

I see HRod starting the season on the DL.

After that, at some point, it's decision time for the Nats.

So far, not a lot to show for The Hammer being traded to the A's.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Supposedly Chad Tracy was dropping Bombs out on the highway like Werth was doing last Spring.

That's a great sign!

Candide said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candide said...

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

That doesn't count, my server is hanging today, took a long time to post that.
; )


As they say, it's a poor carpenter who blames his tools.

Which is another way of saying Ghost is a more toolsy guy than you are... :-)

Pay the man his Diet Coke.

Tony said...

If Henry doesn't make the 25 man roster out of spring training, he could go on the DL or be DFA. If he's DFA, that could result in him being traded, or another team claiming him on waivers, or he could clear waivers and become a FA. If another team trades for him or claims him, they would have to put him on their 25 man roster because he's out of options. If he becomes a FA, he's free to sign a minor league deal with any team, including the Nats. So if he doesn't go north with the Nats, that doesn't necessarily mean he's gone.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Doc said...
So far, not a lot to show for The Hammer being traded to the A's.


It goes down as a poor trade any way you slice it. Remember, the Nats put Corey Brown on waivers last year and nobody took him.

I think Corey needs a chance somewhere. He's not going to get it here with Bernadina in front of him as the 4th outfielder.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Candide, I love it! My tools are working today although I've fallen prey to Mark's SPAM web.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

I figured somebody would say that.

Oh, all right.

El NIDO de Nats Fans

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

This El NIDO is nice. I'm now owed 2 six packs and 1 Diet Coke!

Its all good in the neighborhood. I think that's Applebees slogan!

Candide said...

How does five total Cokes = 2 six packs plus one diet?

And before you start drinking all them Cokes, you might want to read this.

Section 222 said...

I'm fine with Duke being the only lefty, but does anyone else remember that when Gonzales joined the bullpen last year, Davey was raving about how great it was to have so many lefty options?

The Nats have shown they aren't afraid to come very close to the made up injury line to keep from losing someone. So it seems pretty certain that if they're already talking about Bray's groin injury modified delivery and Henry's elbow tenderness, those guys aren't going to be on the 25 man at the start of the season unless they really impress during ST.

So if Henry isn't PFB and Bray is just meh, who's the guy? Could Cole Kimball be ready?

Boy have we come a long way since we starting the season with a Rule 5 guy, Broderick, in the bullpen, or handing the ball over 20 times in a season to the likes of Logan Kensing, Kip Wells, and Ron Villone (three stalwarts of our "bullpen" in 2009).

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Candide, I have 13 drinks owed on my column!

2*6=12+1=13

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Haven't been many Nats tweets in over 2 hours. I see CBS Channel 9 got a one-on-one with Bryce Harper.

How do they score that? That seems like a major feather in their cap at this point in ST.

I love it how the DC NBC and CBS affiliates sent people to Viera. Haven't heard if FOX or ABC did the same.

How times have changed.

I think 2 years ago there were only beat writers and Chinese Taipei reporters covering Wang.

NatsLady said...

New post on my little baby blog. Would love if you all could look at it and see if there are any glaring errors. Just bypass if you're not interested or don't want to work as my editor/proofreader for nada. :)

The Magic Twenty-Seven

http://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/

NatsLady said...

Ghost, been writing instead of tweeting. Takes forever to format a tiny table on Word and WordPress...

Anna Peregrina said...

Looks good to me, NatsLady.

Candide said...

Whoops - I was reading your drinks across, not down.

djinFl. said...

Yes there are plenty of pressers in Viera.
I just put up a shot on twitter from yesterday.
@djbinFl

SonnyG10 said...

Looks good to me also, NatsLady,

natsfan1a said...

sofa and I have infinite drinks owed. That's a lot of six packs. :-)

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Candide, I have 13 drinks owed on my column!

2*6=12+1=13
February 15, 2013 1:28 PM

natsfan1a said...

Luck for us, they're imaginary so that maintaining six-pack abs won't be an issue. What?

NatsLady said...

Thanks for reading, folks. I put in an additional chart and posted it on Twitter. Go Nats!!!

mo nats said...

NatsLady, the baby blog is great.

And Ghost, Britt McHenry is in Viera from Channel 7 - I saw at least one interview she did with Mike Rizzo and another with Bryce I think.

sjm308 said...

I can barely use a computer, have a cell phone that is 8 years old and now you guys are talking about twitter. Damn!!

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

sjm, maybe you could stick to Linear B.
; )

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