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Hanrahan Out As Closer, Nats To Use Committee Approach

Joel Hanrahan's 2009 tenure as the Washington Nationals' unquestioned closer lasted all of five save opportunities. During that time, he blew three victories and reversed much of the season's momentum. He combusted with enough frequency that, finally, the Nationals decided they could afford it no longer.

Today, Manager Manny Acta said that his team would now finish games -- or at least try to finish them -- with a committee of relief pitchers that includes Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells, both signed in March to non-guaranteed minor league deals. Once Joe Beimel returns from the disabled list in the first week of May, he will also be in the mix.

"Well what we're going to do is put the veteran guys back at the end of the game and take all the pressure off these young kids and put them earlier in the game," Manager Manny Acta said. "Right now we're just going to go by committee and match-ups at the end of the game. Probably most of the duties will be handled by Wells and Tavarez up until Beimel comes back, and then we'll put him in the mix. Depending on how things go this week, he might end up being the guy."

I'll have tons more on this -- with reaction from all corners -- within the next hour or so.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 28, 2009; 5:35 PM ET
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Next: 1,727 Words On The Bullpen Shake-Up


Thank god....go caps

Posted by: theredskin | April 28, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Good move, although I hope it's not too little, too late.

Posted by: Juan-John | April 28, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

More playing with the idea of Cabrera as a reliever:

The first time through the batting order:

Opponents' AVG: .207
Opponents' OBP: .333
Strike Outs: 5
Walks: 6

In first 25 pitches:

AVG: .105
OBP: .267
SO: 3
BB: 4

In first inning:

AVG: .133
OBP: .235
SO: 2
BB: 2

No HR in any of those splits. If we have a better starter, why not try him in relief?

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse


Given the current state of the bullpen, here's my 2-cents worth on what to do...

>Rivera - Either use in "blow-out" situations, or against 1-2 batters in low-pressure situations until he regains some sort of form.
>Wells, Bergmann - Perfectly suited for 1-2IP roles, particularly to start innings; MR slots.
>Tavarez - Can be used nearly anywhere (Long, Middle, Set-up), but must watch pitch counts (stay below 15/IP).
>Hinckley - Prone to BB, but effective LHS & occaisional RH.
>Hanrahan, Mock - Touted as possible closers, need to throw strikes consistently & earn position.
Of this group, only Wells, Tavarez & Hinckley have proven effective w/men on base, let alone w/RISP. Both Tavarez & Hinckley are currently being used by Manny as "stoppers".

Injured list -
>Chico - Former starter, may be effective as LR/MR if surgery recovery goes well.
>T.Young - RuleV pick; unproven in ML. Not part of current equation.
>Beimel - Solid LH set-up pitcher; throws strikes, probably a little too "cute" for closer role.

Minors - The equivalent of a Hollywood "cattle call" - Dozens to choose from, but no "leading-man" types.

For the current situation, Wells & Bergmann become the MR, 2IP guys; Rivera & Hinckley are the "spot-out" artists, with Tavarez, Hanrahan, Mock & Beimel (when back) in a SU-CL rotation. If Chico comes back this year, he becomes the LR (2-3IP) & bumps either Mock/Hanrahan/Hinckley on the roster.

Posted by: BinM | April 28, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: BinM | April 28, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

If it's too late with 144 games left in the season then we really are in trouble.

Also, sorry, Manny, I didn't realize you were waiting for my suggestion, I would have sent it over earlier. And, erm, can you pay me my consulting fee in cash, I'm worried this will bump me into a higher tax bracket...

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

This begs the question why did Acta feel he had to anoint Hanrahan as closer in the first place? Because he converted nine of 12 opportunities for a team that won only 59 games last year? This is like flatly stating that Milledge was his leadoff hitter and center fielder when Milledge had shown little aptitude for neither job. If I was Manny, I wouldn't be making such blanket statements in the future.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 28, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"If I was Manny, I wouldn't be making such blanket statements in the future."

If Manny were you he might then criticize himself for running an amateur show by not expressing confidence in his leadoff man or naming a closer.

One way or another, Manny was going to be accused of running an amateur hour.

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

This is good. That is all.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 28, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

506, you hit that one on the head. People are going to bust on Manny no matter what he does.
I'm guessing that Manny has learned a few lessons along the way, and the Nats will be better off for it.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 28, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

amateur hour? where's ted mack when you really need him? lol!

Posted by: surly_w | April 28, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Just to be clear, busting Manny on the head isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's part of the job, but let's admit when we're going to be unhappy no matter what.

Really, as CiL said, the problem is that they're losing.

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse


I had earlier ancedotally stated that D-Cab had problems in the 1st inning - your numbers prove me wrong.

My problem with trying to convert him to a reliever is this: A reliever needs a "go-to" pitch; In D-Cab's present state on mind, does he have that? I think not, with a 89mph fastball, an 84mph slider, and an 83mph curve in his current repetoire, none of wich he can throw for strikes consistently.

Posted by: BinM | April 28, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I hope they win tonight - Go Nats!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | April 28, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

maybe now before axta makes any more piiching or position proclamations, he'll have players get those jobs the old fashioned way = let them EARN them.

Posted by: surly_w | April 28, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

That's a good point, BinM. I missed his last start, how is his fastball looking movement-wise? An 89 MPH fastball that dances a jig down to the plate is a go-to pitch, but one that holds still is a gone-too pitch.

Thank you, I made that up myself.

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Thank YOU! Maybe I can tune in to the game tonight on the radio. There's that stench of hope again.

Posted by: mastroj | April 28, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

"maybe now before axta makes any more piiching or position proclamations, he'll have players get those jobs the old fashioned way = let them EARN them."

Good idea, surly. Maybe he'll do something like put them in game situations, see if they produce, and then make some changes if they don't. Dang that sounds familiar. I could swear I've seen that very scenario play out somewhere recently....

Posted by: joebleux | April 28, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

I have to say: Surly W is a great name.

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Finally you have seen the light Mr. Acta

Posted by: amorris525 | April 28, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I really think this is unfair.

He should be given 100 more chances.

Posted by: ThinkingOne | April 28, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Hope this helps. I think it's the right move.

I'm with you, BinM and my band of Nats fan brothers and sisters. Go NATS!!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 28, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

It looks like Manny just had another "wake-up" moment; 1&1a) Milledge as CF / leadoff hitter (CF - Not on this team; Leadoff - Not at this time); 2) Hanrahan as the programmed closer (umm, no).

IMO, If Manny were at the plate, the 2009 season to-date would have him at 1-2 - (Milledge overall = flailing strike 1; Injuries / callups = Ball 1; Initial Bullpen / Subsequent roster callups = foul ball, out of play, strike 2; Secondary bullpen shakeup = foul tip.

Posted by: BinM | April 28, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

506, those Cabrera numbers are just from this season, no? Talk about sample size! Look at his splits for '08, they are scary. Over a 1.000 OPS against in the 1st inning. I think, BinM, that you are actually right on this.

As for your attribution to me, yes, the problem at bottom is that they are losing. But, I do think that Manny is in fact a part of it. You need to be able to play with the cards that you are dealt. And I don't think Manny has done a good job on that front, as far as making the decisions to put the team in best position to win. Home opener against Philly was a great example of that.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 28, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Yanks lowered their tix prices today cause they were too expensive. Nats should follow suit and lower theirs cause the team stinks so bad. LOWER THE TICKET PRICES NATS.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 28, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: petey5 | April 28, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

@506 re:Cabrera - Fastball, last start.

Movement (release to plate)
Break = approx. 6.5 inches.
Sink = approx. 7.3 inches.

No tailing movement - it goes where he throws. He's steering pitches rather than throwing pitches; Not a bullpen candidate, imo.

Posted by: BinM | April 28, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse


don't give the lerners any ideas. they would probably let fans in free and make them pay to leave after the games.

Posted by: surly_w | April 28, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

You're right, they are just from this season, I should have noted that. My reason for omitting 2008 was all the weird stuff the O's tried to have him do. Sometimes just let the guy hurl, and that's what a relief pitcher can get away with that a starter can't. No need to save some tricks for later, get 'em all out. Especially if your trick is throw fast.

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

"No tailing movement - it goes where he throws. He's steering pitches rather than throwing pitches; Not a bullpen candidate, imo."

If that's what he's dealing, your assessment is about right. At least it gives us something to try out in mid-May (that's, two more starts?) instead of a straight DFA. We'll lose that money anyway.

Posted by: Section506 | April 28, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

new post if you can access it.

Posted by: surly_w | April 28, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

I've posted it before: Earl Weaver said the real contribution a manager makes is setting up the team in spring training. Clearly, Acta failed. The entire bullpen has now been reconstructed, while the team has lost games it can never get back. How could Acta leave spring training with a bullpen this bad?

Posted by: gbooksdc | April 28, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

This isn't about Manny "waking up" or some such nonsense -- I'm sure he's always been at least as cognizant of the reality of the situation that we (and he) are in as anybody, even if he can't say so publicly. This is simply the position we're forced into: we don't have a closer (as I posted the other day after JH's last save, which was so nearly yet another meltdown). And it shouldn't be a priority to attempt manufacturing one if there really isn't one on the staff. For now let's just try to win out some games, in whatever way we can, and save having a "closer" for later.

The most concerning thing about this episode isn't that we lost some games we should have won, but whether JH will eventually recover from having been mishandled so, beginning with last season's trade of Rauch, JH's elevation by default and then his premature annointing after some small success (or relative lack of glaring failure at the time), plus the WBC. It's clear now that he wasn't properly qualified or prepared for the job. And that's not his fault. I reckon it's more Bowden's than anybody's. Manny *had* to try giving JH confidence he may have lacked. It din't work out; now we move on as best we can and hope the misadventure doesn't keep on harming us too much going forward.

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | April 28, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Ho, hum. Let's see ... the Nats are hitting fairly well ... surprisingly their fielding has not been up to snuff nor has their pitching. The young pitching the farm's were supposed to yield. Instead of going after a veteran or two to stabilize the starters and the bullpen (there's still a nice vet out there Mr. Rizzo), the went with youth.

Now they are 4-15 about to end the month 4-16 ENTIRELY AGAINST THEIR OWN DIVISION!!

The owners went for Texiera, they landed Dunn, they have a new high rent stadium that they need filled during an economic crisis. The owners didn't sign last year's first, they are going to be asked to sign this year's in Strasberg. They are going to look at teams like the Marlins and the Rays who build with youth and do complete turnarounds in 1 year! They will wonder what is wrong with us?

I think that very soon there will be changes in management perhaps all the way up the chain. I can't see it not happening. Right now management seem to look like the real problem as opposed to the young talent they are trying to create a winner with. But I could be wrong?

Posted by: periculum | April 28, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

buh bye, GasCanrahan

Posted by: kingrob76 | April 29, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

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