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Nationals' Sean Burnett and Matt Capps take small steps forward

Matt Capps and Sean Burnett, the Nationals' closer and their top (only?) lefty out of the bullpen, currently have ERAs of 9.00 and 12.60, respectively. Tonight, though, they each made progress by throwing a scoreless inning a piece. Throw in Miguel Batista's 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and the Nationals' bullpen allowed no runs on three hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Burnett gave the team a momentary scare when, after six straight balls, pitching coach Steve McCatty trudged to the mound with a trainer trailing behind. Burnett had throw all six pitches well high, and "that's just not him," Manager Jim Riggleman said. Burnett felt fine physically, but he needed a quick mechanical fix.

"I guess they were kind of worried it wasn't looking as natural as it usually did," Burnett said. "That last two, I said, 'Screw it' and let it go. It ended up being better results."

Burnett allowed one hit and one walk. He lowered his spring ERA to 12.60, a figure still bloated from his rocky first outing of March.

"The whole spring, I've felt great and made good pitches," Burnett said. "I've just been up in the zone a few times. A lot of that has to do with my delivery and the timing, just a hair off. When I do hit it right, I've been pitching good."

Capps has been a concern for most of spring training. Before tonight, he had allowed a run in five of six outings. He vowed he would improve as opening day neared, and tonight he struck out a pair while allowing a lone double.

"I think that's the best I've seen him throw this spring," Riggleman said. "He really threw a couple good sliders. It seemed like he had the best velocity on his fastball."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 23, 2010; 9:30 PM ET
 
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Next: The shortstop competition continues, Luis Atilano is sticking around, and morning links

Comments

With Olaen being lousy and Batista being strong it is becoming more apparent that Stammen will be the 5th starter and Batista the long man in the pen.

I'm still not thrilled with this pen, everyone has some of a track record and potential to grow but excluding Batista none have proven that much. But I'm going to go glass half full on this one, with Storen and Rafael Martin and probably Stammen once Wang or strasberg come to town breathing down their necks they know they either need to step up or they are out of a job.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | March 23, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm hoping they aren't going to be as careful with Storen as SS, and bring him up as the first sign of somebody else getting canned. Given that closers are more likely to burn out early no matter how you treat them, it may not make much sense to worry about his free agency years at this point.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 23, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

If Bowden was still GM, the Nats would have announced the season-saving signing of free agent Eric Gagne!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | March 23, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

Ahmm, I wouldn't depend on Wang ... given what we've seen with Olsen. jZimm sounds a lot more promising at this point.

They do seem to have a lot of young relievers just shy of the big leagues including Jesse English.

Posted by: periculum | March 23, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Listening to the game on the Tigers station on MLB.com, it was ugly, but trying to take away what little positive there was: The HRs Olsen gave up, according to the Tigers broadcasters, were on change-ups, which he was throwing with such regularity that they predicted the hitters would wait for one.

The Tigers' guys also thought the radar gun was a little low on its readings. Olsen wasn't that bad through 3 innings, but he got lit up after that, obviously.

All in all, this game, this late in spring training, was not cause for optimism.

Posted by: nats24 | March 23, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

LOL, I think the Tigers' announcers thought the HRs were off change-ups because they weren't able to tell the difference between Olsen's change-up and fastball, unfortunately! And the hitters clearly couldn't tell the difference, either...

Posted by: Ghost7 | March 24, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Is there any talk of putting Olsen on the DL to statrt the season or sending him down to AA or AAA to see if he can work himself into major league shape where his fastball hits in the 90s

Posted by: markfd | March 24, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

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