Friday, March 26, 2010

Figuring out bullpen roles

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Miguel Batista is likely to serve as a long man in the Nats' bullpen.
VIERA, Fla. -- Jim Riggleman all but named six members of his Opening Day bullpen this morning: Matt Capps, Brian Bruney, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Jason Bergmann and Miguel Batista. No huge surprises there, though Batista's name had never been uttered with so much authority previously this spring.

You had to figure all along, though, that Batista was strong candidate to make the club, if for no other reason than his track record. The 39-year-old right-hander has done just about everything in this game, from starting to closing to serving every other role in between. That versatility makes him valuable to the Nationals, who feel the need to carry a long reliever who can also make a spot start if needed.

Batista's numbers this spring -- five runs, 10 hits in 8 2/3 innings pitched -- aren't anything spectacular, but the club isn't making its decision based on that.

"Batista is one of those guys, for myself, I go on the track record of a long season," Riggleman said. "Last year, he pitched very effectively for Seattle, in the low-4.00's ERA in a tough American League, and handled a lot of roles. Pitched middle of the games, late in games, situational stuff. He was used in a lot of ways. He's a guy we're going to count on when the bell rings to do a lot of things for us."

So the only remaining question in the bullpen appears to be whether the Nationals decide to carry a seventh guy or not. If they do, Tyler Walker seems the likely choice, unless the club wants to keep lefty Jesse English (who has never pitched above Class AA).

Now, how does Riggleman intend to use all of these relievers?

"In a perfect world, we want to know that Opening Day," the manager said. "A few days before Opening Day, we want to nail down how we're going to use our bullpen. But sometimes the players' performances make you alter some things. Somebody steps up and shows you they can handle more crucial outs later in the game."

Capps is the closer ... for now. Don't be surprised if Riggleman has a short leash on the right-hander, who has not pitched well this spring. Bruney (who has had a very good spring) figures to be the primary eighth-inning guy. Burnett will be used in the seventh or eighth inning, usually when there are some tough lefties in the batter's box. Clippard and Bergmann are more middle men, with Clippard also used a lot against left-handed hitters. Batista's the long man. Walker, if he makes it, probably would be used initially when the Nats are trailing and need an inning here or there, though he could push his way into a more prominent role if he pitches better than he has this spring.

"We have a good idea, but it's fluid, it's ever-changing," Riggleman said. "You'd like to be able to know this is the way it's going to go and your confidence level in those guys is such that you can stay with it. That's what we're striving for. The players, they'll let you know if they're going to handle those roles."


Sec314 said...

Bergmann seems like a nice guy, and I know he lays claim to being "the last of the Expos," but he sure hasn't looked sharp this Spring and has never really been that impressive. Maybe after five years its time to look for someone else to fill that role?

Bill C-H said...

I think 11 pitchers to start is right. We know (and certainly hope) that the pitchers will change over the next 2 to 3 months. The 11 listed now is a "good start" and performance will sort out the July, August and September roster.

Anonymous said...

I look at this list and it doesn't seem "good enough", I sure hope I'm wrong or a lot of 6-4 games that your still in are going to turm into 9-4 games quick.

I hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Lefty reliever Joe Beimel got a minor-league deal at $850,000 from the Rockies. You can't tell me the Nationals didn't error making a similar deal.

E-Rizzo on that non signing!

Bonzai!!! said...

You just get the feeling the whole bullpen this year is just waiting for Storen to arrive in the majors. You really don't have a closer that inspires a lot of confidence and that is always felt down the bullpen. If you have a solid closer, everyone steps up knowing we just have to "get to that guy." I hope Capps doesn't give us a long spring.

Anonymous said...

I shudder to think about all the games these guys are going to blow.

alexva said...

Miguel Batista = Julian Tavares with a little less knuckleheadedness

Les in NC said...

I don't see this squad blowing around 40 games like the pen did last year! Having said that, I still think the Nats can top 70 wins this year which, to me, is good progress.

peric said...

English, Slaten, Severino, Garate, Spradlin Novoa say: You don't need old man Beimel anymore, put us in coach we're ready to play.

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