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Taking stock of the Nationals bullpen

When the Nationals released Ron Villone on Monday, they made it slightly easier to envision the ultimate makeup of their bullpen. "I think it's beginning to come into focus, the bullpen and roles," general manager Mike Rizzo said.

But there's still some ironing out to be done. First, here are the remaining relievers, split into four groups as I see it:

NOT LONG FOR CAMP
1. Luis Atilano

LOCKS
1. Brian Bruney
2. Matt Capps
3. Tyler Clippard
4. Sean Burnett

LIKELY ON
5. Jason Bergmann

COMPETING
1. Miguel Batista (also may be a starter)
2. Jesse English
3. Doug Slaten
4. Craig Stammen (also may be a starter)
5. J.D. Martin (also may be a starter)
6. Tyler Walker
7. Drew Storen


Bergmann is listed as "likely on" because Manager Jim Riggleman on Monday listed Capps, Bruney, Clippard and Bergmann as relievers the Nationals could count on. "They come in having to lose the job," Riggleman said. Also, Bergmann is a known commodity -- and he's out of options.

Riggleman also contributed to the growing body of evidence that Storen has a shot to make the team, saying "Storen is making a case for himself."

The Nationals are content for now with the left-handers they have. Joe Beimel, whom the Nationals signed last year on March 18 and traded later in the season, is available as a free agent and apparently in demand. The Mets reportedly offered him a contract earlier this spring and, according to his agent, Joe Sroba, two new teams expressed interest in him late last week. "He'll be patient for the right deal," Sroba said.

The Nationals are not one of those interested teams, and they have had no discussions with Beimel, according to a source. They're not in the market for a lefty for two main reasons: First, right-hander Tyler Clippard is a left-handed specialist in disguise; lefties hit .122 off of him last year. Second, Rizzo is high on Doug Slaten and Jesse English after watching them this spring. (Rizzo didn't mention him, but you can add Atahualpa Severino, sent down Monday, into that mix as well for the future.)

Both Slaten and English will likely start the year in the minors, with Slaten having the better shot to crack the Opening Day roster. But Rizzo sees both of them as possibilities to contribute to the Nationals at some point this season. Their presence, Rizzo said, helped convince him to let go both Villone and Eddie Guardado. (He also said "there was not a lot coming out of their arms.")

The Nationals acquired English on waivers from the San Francisco Giants in September. He has never pitched above Class AA. But they believed he had never been given one role -- he's made 120 appearances, 69 as a starter and 51 out of the bullpen -- and that as a reliever, he could be an effective pitcher.

"We've done the splits, and his splits as a reliever are off the charts," Rizzo said. "He comes at you at a good left-handed angle. He's got a good breaking pitch and a firm fastball. And he can throw both for strikes. We think that he's a guy that certainly could be one of the two lefties in the bullpen at some time in the future."

For the present, this is my best guess at the bullpen the Nationals will head north with:

1. Matt Capps
2. Brian Bruney
3. Sean Burnett
4. Tyler Clippard
5. Jason Bergmann
6. Miguel Batista
7. Drew Storen

Yeah, I'm going with Storen. He's been that good, and the Nationals seem to be more and more publicly willing to concede he could make the team.

While Capps is the favorite to start the year as the closer, Rizzo made clear that might be up for competition, too. "Certainly, there will be several spots in the bullpen that are still going to be competed for," Rizzo said. "More important than that, roles in the bullpen are still being competed for."

So the bullpen is coming together, but it's far from finalized.

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 15, 2010; 7:29 PM ET
 
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Next: Latest on Jesus Flores, Cristian Guzman, Chien-Mien Wang

Comments

Storen is not doing himself any favors tonight. He is no where near the target Pudge is setting. The ball is running and dipping every where except in the strike zone.

Posted by: Juliasdad | March 15, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Geez they look bad.

Posted by: Juliasdad | March 15, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Adam, a week or two ago you gave Storen an 8% shot of making the opening day roster, now you think he'll make the team.. I'm glad the thinking on Storen is changing, we need those kinds of live arms around...

Posted by: Ghost7 | March 15, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

AK: When you go to "semi-auto", you miss more than you hit. Ease up on the multiple posts inside 90 minutes - multiple posts with few hits = bad averages.

Posted by: BinM | March 15, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

What's up with R. Martin - the 25 year old out of Mexico they signed in February?

Posted by: theclevz | March 15, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Rafael Martin is still at the Accelerated minor league camp right next door as it seems. I think Ben Goessling went over there today to have a look but found no one ...

Posted by: periculum | March 15, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Not the best bullpen but light years better than last years bullpen on opening day. And with Rizzo stockpiling lefty relievers in AAA I have hope that the future will only get brighter.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | March 15, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Season 6 is two weeks away and still the talk is of a "brighter future." Rome was built faster than the Nats.

Posted by: howjensen | March 16, 2010 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Can we afford 7 relief pitchers? I think it makes more sense to send Storen to AA/AAA (along w/ SS). Let Stammen, Martin, Mock, Olsen sort the starter situation out by performance (or the lack thereof) and then see how Detweiller and Wang come along. By June, the whole pitching picture will be different.

Posted by: Bill-CH | March 16, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

No mention of Ryan Speier? Was he released?

Posted by: fushezzi | March 16, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

What a Crock. So Storen didn't throw that well in the last game. He's the best in the Pen and he should be in the closer slot. What's the matter with you people. The Nats are short in Rf and they suck at ss if they keep Guzman there and they only go 3 in the starting rotation - if you include Strasburg which you should. It's gonna be a long season and don't give me that crap that going 0'fer in the spring training doesn't mean anything. These guys suck and so does the manager. Arrrggghhhhh!!!

Posted by: billm32 | March 16, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

From what I saw last night Storan is no where close. And I don't know why so much attention is being given on the closer. Until they start hitting and scoring runs a closer will have nothing to do. It's putting the cart before the horse

Posted by: pstotts15 | March 16, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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