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Talking fatigue with Nationals relievers

When it comes to relief pitching, the Washington Nationals are doing more with less. That is to say, they are relying so heavily on Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps in the latter innings that Manager Jim Riggleman has expressed concern about their use.

"We can't just ride those horses all the time," Riggleman said on Sunday. "Somebody is going to have to pick up those innings when those guys have been up a lot and in a lot."

In eight games dating to April 20, Clippard has pitched at least one inning five times. In that stretch, Capps has pitched four times. For all the innings they have pitched, the good news is the fact that they have started to emerge as a nice 1-2 punch, with Clippard acting as the set-up man and Capps as the closer.

But still, there is some worry about fatiguing them. On Monday, Riggleman made a concerted effort to keep both pitchers in the bullpen in a 10th-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs. Clippard and Capps each pitched an inning in Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Cubs, with Capps earning his ninth save in as many opportunities.

Asked Monday about how he was holding up, Clippard did not seem to mind the use.

"I know for me, I've just been working hard, off the field when I'm not in the games, after the games, with my throwing program to keep myself right, my body right, my mind right," Clippard said. "All that stuff I put on myself on how to be ready physically."

Clippard added that he would let Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty know if he was not able to pitch on a given day. "They're not going to throw me if I don't feel right," Clippard said. "So far I have, and I feel good and I want to help our team win as much as I can."

FROM THE POST

Ian Desmond had a big day at the plate, pitcher Livan Hernandez pitched a gem and the Nationals defeated the Cubs, 3-1, on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

Dave Sheinin, The Post's esteemed baseball scribe, was at Stephen Strasburg's fourth career start with Class AA Harrisburg. Strasburg was unhittable Tuesday against the Reading Phillies, and it is getting harder to come up with reasons why it is in his best interests to remain at this level.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Toledo 7, Syracuse 0: Starting pitcher Shairon Martis (0-2) took the loss for Syracuse, allowing 5 runs and 8 hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Harrisburg 1, Reading 0 (7 innings): Some guy named Strasburg did really well throwing a baseball. Also, he knocked in the only run of the game. See above.

Harrisburg 7, Reading 6: First baseman Chris Marrero drove in 5 runs, after a 2-for-3 night at the plate.

Potomac 7, Myrtle Beach 6: Third baseman Tim Pahuta went 2 for 4 with 4 RBI.

Hagerstown 5, Delmarva 0: In 7 innings, pitcher Jack McGeary allowed only 2 hits, with 3 strikeouts and 1 walk. Reliever Wanel Vasquez threw finished the game with a pair of no-hit innings.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

If you thought he was finished, washed up at age 35, Livan Hernandez is determined to prove you wrong, writes Nats Insider.

Bill Ladson of MLB.com writes that, in spring training, Hernandez vowed 2010 would be a big year for him. So far? Yes, Hernandez has it correct.

Nats320 writes that the play of Ian Desmond and Hernandez on Tuesday could be described with one word: poise.

By Mark Viera  |  April 28, 2010; 8:59 AM ET
 
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Next: As expected, Ryan Zimmerman out of lineup again

Comments

Nice to see Josh Smoker and now McGeary resuscitating their careers.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | April 28, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Strasburg is hitting .333 with .833 OPS in Harrisburg.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 28, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they should put him in RF four days a week . . .
__________________________
Strasburg is hitting .333 with .833 OPS in Harrisburg.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 28, 2010 9:44 AM

Posted by: lowcountry | April 28, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Clippard has been nearly perfect, last night he had to battle more as his command was off a little. The next time out will be interesting.

Posted by: sjt1455 | April 28, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

bring up Storen and SS...Drew and Clippard pitch the 7 and 8....Capps get the 9th...unless somebody else steps up and starts contributing, let them pitch the dreg innings when somebody has to but they don't mean anything.

Posted by: outrbnksm | April 28, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

One big reason not to promote Strasburg (or at least not yet)--some of us might want to head up to Harrisburg this Sunday to see him pitch! It's a lot further to go to Columbus (where the Chiefs play on Sunday).

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | April 28, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Both guys are doing a great job, but I cant wait to get some of our other minor league guts up. It would be nice to have a guy could be a backup closer for Capps.

Posted by: alex35332 | April 28, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

You have to think that should Walker or Bruney step up and Clippard and Capps remain good (OK, not this good but good) that our bullpen could be really solid. On a down side, was great the last couple of years watching the pen door open and opposing teams tee off on our retreads; we got to see plenty of offense!

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 28, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Drew Storen didn't seem to do too bad either with two innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits and striking out three.

Posted by: ssktigers | April 28, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Like when they're down by 10 after the first inning?
I know what you're saying, but they all mean something until they're over.

Then none of them do. It's just a game.
***********
let them pitch the dreg innings when somebody has to but they don't mean anything.
Posted by: outrbnksm | April 28, 2010 10:52 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 28, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I do not like Clippard as the set-up guy. I like to reserve him for our life preserver when a starter screws up early in the game and we need someone to pitch a lot of innings, or for extra innings situations where we might need someone to stay in the game for a long time.

Clippard's first inning is always his shakiest, and he has trouble controlling that fastball almost in a way that leaves him looking like Mike MacDougal looked a lot of times last year, where his fastball tails off uncontrollably to the right. But, unlike MacDougal, Clippard always seems to be able to get it under control after the first few batters and then becomes unhittable if he can just get out of that first inning.

Don't get me wrong: Tyler Clippard has been absolutely fantastic and has become one of my favorite Nats. I just don't think he's well-suited to the role of set-up guy unless you bring the set-up guy in during the fifth or sixth inning.

This is because a set-up guy is all about that first inning he pitches only. I want to see Bruney get straightened out, because that's what he's here for -- when we're nursing a small lead in the eighth inning exclusively. We saw what happened, though, when he pitches more than one inning the other day -- we are almost guaranteed to get scored on in that second Bruney inning.

But Clippard can even go five innings when needed, and maybe more if we can afford to give him a couple days' rest afterwards.

Drew Storen solves all of these conundrums. When he's here he becomes the set-up guy (or the closer with Capps for the 8th), and Bruney can be relegated to spot duty.

I still don't understand the demotion of Jesse English, nor why he didn't appear in those extra-innings losses, particularly the one Bruney blew. I saw English as a particularly bright spot in our bullpen.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | April 29, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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