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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):

Rotation (5):
Fifth starter (Balester? Wells? Chacin? Who knows?)

Infielders (6):
Harris (utility)

Outfielders (5):

Catchers (2):

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.

By Barry Svrluga  |  March 13, 2009; 6:02 AM ET
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I would cut Bergmen, Mock, to keep Martis and Young......I have seen enough of Berggy to know we are just taking on water there.....

Posted by: JayBeee | March 13, 2009 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Is Shawn Hill chopped liver already?

Posted by: NatsNut | March 13, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse


I would say we are always just treading water with Shawn Hill, but he would need his arms for that. I think the point is simply that he cannot be counted on, and one would have to take a bit of a flyer to pencil him into the rotation. I sure hope he can do it, but every time his forearm aches, he is on his way out.

I think that relief pitchers who do poorly in Spring Training should be sent down, and it's a shame if ones without options get claimed. It seems that none of them would garner tremendous interest, because all but Bergmann (Mock, Martis and Hinckley have options) were scrap-heap signings themselves.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 13, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I see nunof1 first noticed the Chad Cordero story. I am sorry that he won't be available for us, but I really don't believe he was much of an option this year, anyway. I am sorry about how Jim Bowden treated him, but I am more sorry that he was too stupid to get something for Cordero when he could have. Now we ended up with nothing except the $4 or $5 M he was due had the Nats picked up his option.

That money, of course, should go back into the best middle reliever still available in free agency, whether that by Ohman or Beimel.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 13, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

... the bullpen is arguably the number one topic of Nats discussion this spring, around water coolers as well as this NJ forum. And I find the comments of all posters to be of sufficient interest to continue reading.

... but I also want to hear - whether by way of nuggets of media info on this list, or through the Post website - the views and opinions of Randy St. Claire and Manny Acta on this issue. As a fan, I can cogitate all I want, all the while realizing I have the freedom of not having to follow thru' with anything I might put forth. It's the ideas of those burdened with the 'last word' that I want to know.

"News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising." - Lord Northcliffe, British Newspaper Baron

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 13, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I would most certainly agree that the bullpen is the most pressing issue entering this season. Hopefully the early struggles in spring training will flush themselves out. I prefer they make sure of what they have before jettisoning anyone just yet. Other arms will be available when teams make final cuts as March turns to April. Hopefully, Hinckley will return to the form he showed last season. I really feel for Hill as I know how much he wants it...wish him well.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 13, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Zimmerman v. Gordon, it's hard to eliminate my bias for Ryan given his outstanding attitude, flare for dramatics, and extraordinary fielding capabilty, but even accounting for that bias, I'd have to say that Zimmerman appears to be the better player overall. Once both players reach their peak (likely still 2-3 years away), Gordon will probably hit more homeruns. Both players, if healthy, will likely be stars. And Gordon could very well end up with the better lifetime batting statistics, but Zimmerman may someday legitimately fit in the discussion with Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt as a top all-time fielding third baseman. So, yes, I would say the Nats made the right call on that one.

Posted by: natbisquit | March 13, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Barry -
Noticed on the Zimmerman article that they never factored in defense!!

Also Bullpen:
T. Young - over Colome (this would be part of "the plan")

Speaking of which, is "the plan" being overlooked of compromised??

Posted by: Anatsphan | March 13, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

On the reliever question, I would like to see more heat in the bullpen. Hanrahan and Mock can bring it, but I believe most of the other candidates are pretty middle of the road. Thorwing fast does not make you a good reliever, but it helps.

Even more important I'd like to see better command. That bb/k ratio needs to spike towards the k's. And while I am very appreciative of the good work Colome did in the first half of 2007, I find it mind numbing to watch him pitch. He routinely takes 30 seconds between pitches and it is not unusual for him to go 40-45 seconds. Since he frequently goes 3-2 with a few foul balls mixed in, it can make for long atbats after last call.

Posted by: natbisquit | March 13, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

... another thought for a Friday morning:

... I was always supportive of Lefty Carleton in his on-going avoidance of the sports media, specifically baseball writers. In spite of the fact I would have wanted to know what Steve felt about all manners of things from pitching to peace, I realized that for him, as well as possibly for many others, the bottom line was pitching and that maybe, just maybe, he had to ensure that part of him was secured before presenting himself as a 'fan fave'. So I came down on the side of the individual’s right to administer that part of his life where his views and ideas were concerned. It was his, as it is each of our, right to withhold comment as much as it is to offer the same.

... today ESPN’s Eric Young has suggested the Jonathon Papelbon, Red Sox’ quality reliever, has crossed a line by doing the opposite. In his piece this morning - – he says “ ... I do believe that there are unspoken rules and that Papelbon just broke one of them.”

... to respond to Young’s very basic premise about rules, I say emphatically there should be no unwritten rules – whether to speak one’s mind or to keep one’s mind a secret – in baseball or in life. Unwritten or not, there should be no rules to govern the freedom of personal opinion.

... as a baseball fan, I stand in support of Papelbon’s decision to voice his opinion about Manny being Manny, and recognizing his propensity for offering comment, would welcome anything else he might want to say about the game. If the issuing of comment by one player causes discomfort for any other player or team, then so be it. The rights and freedoms of the individual surely must trump the self-proclaimed rights of some to avoid conflict.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 13, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Nice read on Gordon v. Zimmerman. But these were the words that got me jazzed:

"Plus, as odd as it is to say, the Nats' lineup has the potential to be pretty good. Just look at its depth chart); some nice young talent is there."

I know non-Nats sportswriter's opinions aren't the be-all and end-all, but I like that we're not a laughing stock anyway.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 13, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Good morning!

anatsphan, good point about the Z-Man's defense.

I second natscan on wanting to hear from St. Claire and Acta re. the bullpen, and on Papelbon's comments. Besides, Ramirez isn't even with the team anymore.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 13, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Great morning read and interesting to see JZim has moved to #4 in his rotation.

Also I see you put Willie Harris in under infielder as he will probably play both.

Still have to believe that Kasten/Rizzo will make at least 1 trade so your 25 man roster is sure to change.

Missing from the list is WMP so are you releasing him, trading him, sending him to the DL, or asking him to go to Syracuse?

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 13, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Nice read in the other paper about Nats coach and one of my childhood faves Marquis Grissom and his efforts to use baseball as a tool to promote education, etc. in Atlanta. Hope he can help out here in DC too. Seems like a cause that I hope Nats fans can rally behind. WWKD (what would Kip do?)

Go Nats.

Posted by: jfromPG | March 13, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Just say NO NO NO NO NO NO NO to Jesus Colome.

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | March 13, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the heads up on the Grissom story, j. Very cool that he's doing that. Hope that he'll be able to get some support for expanding his program.

Speaking of stories, morning reading is up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 13, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

anatsphan - the argument about the two faces of the franchises (KC and DC) was from the fantasy perspective. Fantasy is not reality, otherwise Barry and Shawn Hill's sinker would be off spending some time together. Unfortunately for those who like stat-based alternative reality games (me), fantasy baseball does not factor in defense. I don't know where I'd come down on who would have the better year in the 5 categories typically counted in fantasy - runs, batting average, RBI, HR, and steals. I'm thinking the answer might differ if you play with cumulative year long stats (rotisserie, the older style) or match up categories weekly totals versus one opponent (head-to-head). With Gordon's splits, you would have obvious games you'd want him to be out in a head to head league. Year long, you might expect him to have more HRs and SBs. The other stats, I can't figure. I have not really started to prep too much for my league because our auction is late and AL only.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 13, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

So -- about this Zimmerman-Gordon piece. Did the one reporter, Brendan Roberts, perform surgery on Zimmerman's shoulder last year? I'm pretty sure no one else has claimed to have operated on Zimm's shoulder, but Roberts write that Zimm did have surgery. Does he know something the rest of us don't?

Posted by: fischy | March 13, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

How about Shawn Hill in the pen? Perhaps throwing 1-2 innings a game 3-4 times a week will agree with him better than 6-7 innings every 5 days.

Posted by: bertbkatz | March 13, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

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