The Bullpen: Who Is It?
So I wrote about the bullpen situation for the $.75-edition, but it's weird how you can spend 1,000 words on something and still leave out lots of stuff. Particularly, the specifics of some of the candidates.
Let's start with this premise: The Nationals will carry seven relievers. I break down the roster thusly (and Chico may have a different sense of things):
Fifth starter (Balester? Wells? Chacin? Who knows?)
And that would leave seven (7) bullpen spots.
Hanrahan and Rivera are locks, right? I was told today that Bergmann would likely make it ("I don't see why not," someone said), and the numbers for Shell and Mock were encouraging last year. Colome has thrown well thus far. That's six. So only one lefty? Hinckley or Chacin? Chacin could end up as the fifth starter, but would be a contender for a lefty spot if he doesn't make that. And then there's Sharon Martis, who one Nats regular told me is "dealing" just tonight. And, of course, don't discount Rule 5 pick Tyler Young, essentially the first pick in the Rule 5 draft.
And that doesn't count the outside folks, such as Duaner Sanchez. Not trying to incite an all-out Are-The-Lerners-Cheap discussion, but it's worth noting there are relievers out there, and they're not Nationals, so draw your own conclusions.
But I have a bunch of stuff left-over from folks I talked to for the story in the paper.
Take Garrett Mock. Now, I was gone from the beat for most of the time Mock was up. But his numbers as a reliever are impressive. His ERA in three starts: 7.20. His ERA in 23 major league relief appearances: 2.42.
"Making the switch turns everything into something new," Mock said after Thursday's loss to the Braves, in which he pitched a scoreless inning. "Like, this is my first full spring as a reliever. So I've been picking people's brains about how to throw, how to approach things. Starters and relievers prepare themselves totally different. I've been really learning about how to throw between outings and getting that mindset of being ready to throw every day."
And that's a striking thing about the candidates for the Washington bullpen: Most are not relievers. Steven Shell, Garrett Mock, Mike Hinckley, Joel Hanrahan, Jason Bergmann, Sharon Martis, Kip Wells, Gustavo Chacin - almost all of them have primarily been starters over the course of their careers. The real relievers in the mix are really Jesus Colome, Saul Rivera, lefty Wil Ledezma and Terrell Young, the Rule 5 pick (the last two I really left out of the discussion in the paper, for some reason).
Bergmann spoke Thursday afternoon about how, "It's best to stick with one. It's very difficult to go back and forth. It's easier going from starting to relief because you build up your arm. Going from relief to starting, it's hard to get your arm strength, your lower body strength, where it should be."
But he also understands the plight of every one of these candidates.
"I think everyone's got a shot until they make the decision for you," Bergmann said. "It's our job to come in here and make the decision a lot tougher, and play our way onto a team. There's an idea of who's going to make the team, but with the bullpen, it's not like last year, where we had Cordero, Rauch and Ayala."
Those relievers aren't around this year. So, given all this, would you keep seven relievers or six? And who would they be? And, just to stoke the fire, would you sign one of the free agents out there (Sanchez, Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, etc.)?
One last thing: Here's an interesting debate about two third basemen taken in the first four picks of the 2005 draft, Alex Gordon and Ryan Zimmerman. I think I might write about Zimmerman before I leave here.
Night game Friday in Kissimmee against the Astros, so it's possible mid-day updates will be slim. Talk to you when I have something.
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