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Life without "The Chief"

With Chad Cordero injured, but not yet on the disabled list, here are some stats for the current members of the Nationals' bullpen.

Mike O'Connor: 1-0, 1 G, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K, 0.00 ERA
Luis Ayala: 0-1, 17 G, 15-1/3 IP, 15 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 8 K, 2.93 ERA
Jesus Colome: 0-1, 11 G, 15-2/3 IP, 12 H, 6 ER, 12 BB, 18 K, 3.45 ERA
Jon Rauch: 2-0, 14 G, 13-1/3 IP, 16 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 4.05 ERA, 5 saves
Saul Rivera: 3-1, 16 G, 19-1/3 IP, 16 H, 9 ER, 9 BB, 11 K, 4.19 ERA
Joel Hanrahan: 0-1, 12 G, 15-1/3 IP, 14 H, 9 ER, 12 BB, 21 K, 5.28 ERA

The way Manny Acta has it set up right now, Rauch will close, Ayala will pitch the eighth (and he's generally looked sharp, with that old action on his sinker) and Rivera will be the seventh-inning guy, all when the Nationals carry a late lead.

The other three -- O'Connor, Hanrahan and Colome -- can all pitch more than one inning. But look at those walk/strikeout numbers on Hanrahan and Colome. Their stuff is clearly good enough, but they've got to control it. "This is an opportunity for Hanrahan and Colome to make a name for themselves," GM Jim Bowden said yesterday.

Indeed, if the Nationals are going to continue to win, those guys will have to pitch well, because they're going to have to come from behind at some point. Say tomorrow night, Matt Chico gets knocked around a bit and they're trailing 5-1 after five innings. It would be a huge lift if guys like Colome and Hanrahan and could pitch a couple of innings apiece, keep the game where it's at, and allow this dormant offense to get going.

Other random bullpen facts:

* The Nationals' bullpen has 51 walks in 95-1/3 innings this year. Only the Brewers' and PIrates' pens have more in the NL.

* The Nationals' bullpen has 78 strikeouts, tied for fourth most in the NL.

* The Nationals' pen is allowing hitters a .260 average (12th in the NL), a .352 OBP (14th) and a .402 slugging percentage (12th).

* Nationals relievers average 17.3 pitches per inning, the second-most in the NL.

* Nationals relievers have a collective 4.25 ERA, 12th in the NL.

So the question for today: Without a healthy Chad Cordero, is the Nationals' bullpen a strength -- or a weakness?

(I'm off today, but will likely post some lineups. May go to the game as a fan tonight for my first experience that way. Enjoy the start to the Pirates' series, and I'll be back in the chair tomorrow.)

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 1, 2008; 11:35 AM ET
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