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Extras Again

Well, Mike Hinckley and Jesus Colome combined to blow the Nationals' 5-0 lead, and the Nationals just blew a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth -- Ian Desmond tried to score on a pitch that got away at the plate, but was thrown out -- so we go to the 10th for the second straight day.

Not going to make a big deal out of this bullpen thing, but ever since the Nationals landed here, the relieving corps was basically a strength. Yes, last year it got shaky, but even the Hinckleys and the Steven Shells did a decent job when they were called up.

I ask you, now, though -- and not in real poll form, but kind of going old-school NJ on you -- if the bullpen is the area of greatest concern for you as we head toward Opening Day. And if it's not, what is?

(I'll post a final score when I have it. Otherwise, likely will be hacking on the $.75-edition for a while.)

By Barry Svrluga  |  March 10, 2009; 4:07 PM ET
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Bullpen is the biggest problem in my opinion. Yes we're mising Rivera and Hanrahan right now but we need some more proven arms.

Posted by: BobBarker | March 10, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

A tie??????? Boo.....

Posted by: BGinVA | March 10, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

sister kissin time

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 10, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Bullpen...hands down the weak link to this point.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 10, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

New Posted;

Good point natsfan1a1, maybe we should reserve the "Opener" for the reliever who comes in for a non-save opportunity and manages to blow the lead, or at least pitch the game back into a save for the next guy.

IE Nats up 5 in the 7th and Hanrahan is drinking a cool one in on the Red Porch when (INSERT AAAA BUM HERE) gives up 4 runs and Joel has to run back down to the bullpen.

Posted by: estuartj | March 10, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I think it's pitching in general that is the biggest weakness. The starting rotation has a lot of questions with Lannon in only his 2nd year, Olsen coming off a so-so season, Balestar and Cabrera all over the map, and Zimmermann fresh out of AA. If the starters struggle then the bullpen will eventually blow up. Personnaly I think Hanrahan is going to struggle in the closer role. He doesn't have command of both his pitches. I think another veteran starter and reliever would really help.

Posted by: pwilly | March 10, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all the posters so far that the bullpen is the weakest link. We seem to have bolstered our offense, and we have some nice potential brewing with the young pitchers, we've got several guys competing for the infield positions who aren't awful or toxic, so the relievers are what is left. It's been the elephant in the room last year and this year so far. Guess it's time to talk about it.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | March 10, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Funny 7th inning scenario, estuartj.

The bullpen is a concern. (Sorry about that JZ.)

Also: going old school, NJ style. I like it.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The one thing JimBo always lived by that I could agree with was that building a piecemeal bull-pen is pretty easy and why he would trade relievers for field players at any chance (kind of like trading a DB for a starting running back in the NFL). That said, this current group is horrible. It's to the point where I'm wondering if Matt Chico can be converted to a LOOGY.

Posted by: MBUSA | March 10, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Forgot to say that the Bog has a Berg post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Doh! Got newposted for the second time today. Let's hope I don't get the collar!


Right, the opener has to be the guy that opens the door that leads to the negative result, not necessarily the guy that is on the mound when the result occurs. Hinckley gets the opener label for today because he opened the door to the comeback (and in fact was on the mound himself for most of it).

Posted by: BobLHead | March 10, 2009 4:38 PM

Posted by: BobLHead | March 10, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

It's going to be a frustrating year with out pitching, they are so young we'll see them dominate top line-ups one day and get mauled by also-rans the next.

Hopefully the offense will improve enough to allow pitcher to go farther into games (not being pulled for a PH in a 1 run game after 5 innings) and give the youngsters a bit more confidence to be able to make mistakes and not have it automatically cost the game.

I also don't think you can seperate the starters from the relievers so easily, each are so connected to the others, if the starters stumble the bullpen has to eat too many innings and if the relievers struggle the starters will be pressing to force out and keep their pitch total down so they don't have to come out and see the lead slip away. Plus a lot of guys might see significant time in both rolls (Bergmann and Martis will probably pitch relief and start at some point this year)

Posted by: estuartj | March 10, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

pwilly, you wrote exactly what I was thinking.

Nothing more to see here.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 10, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Bullpen problemo numero uno y
Starting pitching problemo numbero segundo...

I hate to admit it but Odalis is looking pretty nice about now.

Posted by: Berndaddy | March 10, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Carrying over my reply to go with BobL's post:

I think that Hinckley walked into the door, BobL.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I'd rather give you a golden sombrero than a collar, BobL. But only if it happens two more times.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Barry - Left you lunch menu suggestions in "The Cut" thread.

Posted by: ryan_temp | March 10, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Yeah the 'pen is probably at the top of the list of concerns, it was shaky last year and we subsequently lost Cordero, Rauch and Ayala (the original opener). Having said that, I'm not sure there is an obvious solution out there. I wouldn't mind signing a veteran southpaw in case Hinckley's not the answer, but Sanchez and the other FAs are probably replacement level and not much better than whatever we have lying around in-house. If we were a contender, then maybe we'd shore up the 'pen a bit with a pair of veteran setup guys or something. But for this team, I think you just run Bergy and Clippard and Mock and Martis out there and see what you get (leaving Rivera and Hanrahan -- also unproven by the way -- to close out the leads).

Posted by: BobLHead | March 10, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

The Bullpen is definitely the number one problem this year.

The BangZoom Blog says the Cubs are shopping Luis Vizcaino, perhaps paired with a propsect. He's probably worn out, but perhaps could be worth a look. He can't be much worse than what the Nats have now.

Posted by: arlingtontwb | March 10, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

BTW, the Baseball Insider and the Bog have new Nats-related posts.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 10, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely biggest worry (other than injuries).

Somehow I think the starting rotation will work out, but few things are more frustrating for a team or for the fans than to see quality starts blown in the middle innings -- and I think we are going to see a lot of that this year.

Right now, middle and set-up relief is a huge worry, and I'm not sold on Hanrahan as a closer yet, either. I hope this more powerful lineup really does produce more runs, cause we're gonna need 'em.

Posted by: Meridian1 | March 10, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

The bullpen has become the team's biggest liability to date, no question. Since it's still ST and Opening Day is more than a month away still, I'm not going to hit the panic button and say we should have kept Odalis Perez. What are the odds that he would have willingly become a reliever? Like negative percent.

Spring Training is designed to work out flaws, and granted blowing leads is a bad habit for bullpens to get into, but if we're still having this discussion in 14 days, I'll revisit my thoughts.

Until then, I'd call myself "concerned," but not "worried." Maybe "mildly concerned."

Posted by: pwelshans | March 10, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Bullpen is easily biggest weakness. Rotation is vulnerable but not weak yet, at least in comparison. Agree w/ above bullpen is easy to fix. Your bullpen can go from lousy to solid w/ a couple of mid-priced FAs in off-season. Rotation is MUCH harder.

Posted by: Avar | March 10, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I'll worry about the bullpen when I believe there is a pitching staff in place that can make the bullpen's performance relevant. When that season comes, they can go buy 2 or 3 relievers for $5-10 million easily enough and nobody will worry.

Posted by: CharlieF | March 10, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

CharlieF makes a good point. How many of the Nats "starters" will see the sixth inning? Or seventh?

The starting pitching helps greatly to determine how effective the bullpen will be. Without starting pitching, who cares what's going on in the pen?

This is a major league franchise? The Lerners are testing credulity.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 10, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Sure, the bullpen is reason for concern. No question about it.

The starting pitching has never struck fear in the hearts of opponents, either.

There are a few outfielders with trade potential. Why not make a few swaps, Rizzo?

Posted by: jbartelloni | March 10, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

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