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For Brian Bruney, a frustrating end to a bad week

On Sunday, Manager Jim Riggleman sent Brian Bruney to the mound in the seventh inning, the game having already slipped away from the Nationals. Riggleman wanted to build Bruney's confidence, and also for Bruney to finish off the game and save any other relievers from needing to pitch.

Riggleman wants Bruney to become a viable, late-inning reliever. Bruney's recent performance, though, has made pitching him in pivotal moments too risky. For most of the season, Bruney has managed to conceal his considerable talent.

His week began by walking in the winning run at Wrigley Field. It ended with Bruney walking three and yielding two hits and two runs at Sun Life Stadium. He needed 49 pitches, the last of which finished off a walk that loaded the bases. The walk forced Matt Capps into the game.

"Basically, I didn't want him to have to throw any more pitches," Riggleman said. "So we got him out of there. He's got too good of stuff to be struggling this much."

The Nationals traded for Bruney to make him their setup man. So far, he has allowed 15 hits and 15 walks in 13 innings, leading to a 6.23 ERA. After the game Sunday, Bruney sat in front of his locker, his shoulder wrapped in ice and bandages, head in his palm and near despondence.

"Guys are getting on," Bruney said. "Obviously, I'm trying to do everything I can to keep them off base. But anything I'm doing, they find a way to get on. Very frustrating."

"I feel fine. I feel good. I really honestly don't know what to tell you."

Even Sunday, Bruney flashed his potential. In the seventh inning, his first, Bruney retired the Marlins in order, striking out Ronny Paulino and Cody Ross. All of the Marlins damage came the next inning. Once Bruney found trouble, he seemed to press.

"He's got to stay back a little bit," pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "He has a tendency to overthrow at times. He's just got to trust himself."

Bruney, like Riggleman, knows he can do better. "If I didn't," Bruney said, "I wouldn't be very confident."

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 2, 2010; 5:56 PM ET
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Next: One take on John Lannan's start to the season


Carrying forward from a previous thread, I also wondered how the Marlins attracted over 30K fans to Saturday's game. It turns out that they do post-game concerts, apparently featuring some big names, on Saturdays.

Posted by: thepostischeap | May 2, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Send him to Syracuse along with Walker Bernadina and Maxwell.Cut Batista. Is this a sinking ship?

Posted by: aspenbubba | May 2, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

This guy is a bum. Can't wait til Storen takes his spot in June.

Posted by: egoodman8 | May 2, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Anybody see this in the Boston Globe?
Evidently, Elijah Dukes will take the year off from baseball. The troubled former Nationals outfielder backed out of a deal with the Tabasco Olmecas of the Mexican League in early April after not showing up for a reporting date, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. It’ll be interesting to see whether Dukes ever plays baseball again.

Posted by: Eyewitness1 | May 2, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Whatta you doing up here Dukes?

Eh, couldn't cut it in the Mexican league?

How's your 24 kids?

Good work Adam and thanks for asking Riggleman about overusing Clippard and the pen the other day. Pleasure reading your stuff.

Posted by: CJArlington | May 2, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Bye bye Bruney.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | May 2, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Eyewitness1: Thanks for the update on Dukes i was just wondering what he was up to it's amazing to me that Austin Kearns is playing in Cleve. but Dukes who hit for a higher average can't get a job in MLB and Bernadina,Harris, and Maxwell imho are not any better than Dukes would have been. There is an interesting article in the Atl.Jour.Const. on how 13 teams passed on Jason Heyward(incl.the Nats) and how Roy Clark(now with the Nats)snowballed everyone especially the Marlins who picked ahead of the Braves,Marlins scout Brian Bridges was all over Heyward before the draft and basically begged Marlin brass to pick Heyward but they opted for Matt Dominguez(3rd bsmn.) Bridges to this day belives the Marlins made a huge mistake,can you imagine Heyward and Ramierez in the same lineup? real scary! This was not a bad road trip however these last two games exposed our lineup against good pitching with Dunn still slumping and JWill now slumping and the RF position not contributing at the plate, well i would have preferred to see Elijah Dukes lose his spot the old fashion way, on the field.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 2, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

lol at aspenbubba.

seriously, dude. sinking ship? a team that was expected to, at best, win 75 games and had a brutal schedule to open the season that is still 13-12 and above 500 and it's "sinking ship?"

dargregmag, it would be even scarier that that. remember that the marlins have the other top 3 prospect coming up this season (beyond heyward and strasburg): stanton. that would give them 2 of the top 3 prospects in baseball on many people's lists. and to me, stanton is scary enough.

Posted by: sec231 | May 2, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

CJArlington: Dukes does not have 24 kids and it's typical of fair weather fans like yourself to kick a player while he's down tell you what; i'd take him right now over what i've seen from the three amigo's playing his position in rightfield all batting below or near the Mendoza line.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 2, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Brian Bruney: "Guys are getting on. Obviously, I'm trying to do everything I can to keep them off base. But anything I'm doing, they find a way to get on. Very frustrating."

Throw more strikes. Walk fewer batters. It'll probably keep runners off base a little better if you do those two things, Brian.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | May 2, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

"For most of the season, Bruney has managed to conceal his considerable talent."


You're not reporting the entire story. This is the story of Bruney's entire career. It's not just this season. Bruney has *always* been a hard thrower with horrible control. It's not as if he's going through some inexplicable control problems with the Nats that he's never had before. There's a reason why the Yankees left Bruney off their postseason roster for the first 2 rounds last year and used rookie relievers instead of him, and why he only got 1 appearance in the WS (in which he was shelled).

But the real problem in my mind is not Bruney's poor performance. The real problem is why "the Nationals traded for Bruney to make him their setup man" and thought that this plan would work out. It's more of the same--picking up a guy on the cheap and thinking he will magically overcome his proven track record.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 2, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Exactly Coverage, but it's a common story with the Nats. Even Lannan has been so overrated. Everyone seems to have forgotten last year when he went through a month or more being totally ineffective. He's a good guy but a number four or five pitcher on an average team. In Sporting New's Fantasy Baseball, both he and Marquis had almost a hundred pitchers ranked ahead of them. That seems to be about right in my opinion.
Bruney and Walker--another of Rizzo's let's hope to catch lightening in a bottle or something like that.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | May 2, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Good Grief, I have not been checking in lately, but its as if I never left. The same tired lament by the same forlorn people. The Nats did not pick up Bruney because he was cheap. They tried to make something out of nothing with their rule 5 pick. It was a good move. Bruney proceeded to make the team for good reason. More money was not going to bring in a more highly credentialed reliever. For heaven's sake, who do you propose they would have signed or traded away to find a better setup man? I suppose they could have paid big for Rodney, Wagner, or Valverde. But they got the best reliever of the bunch in Capps based on performance to date. There were 29 other teams trying to sign players this winter....

There are always some good players who start out bad.

Posted by: natbiscuits | May 2, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

biscuits, relax. I don't have a problem with the Nats trading for Bruney. I do have a problem with them trading for him and anointing him their setup man, as Adam and many others reported. Doing that is no different than anointing Cabrera as their third starter, or thinking that Hanrahan could magically transform himself into a big-league closer.

The problem is not the fact that the Nats take gambles on players. The problem is that they put those players into roles that they don't deserve and can't handle, long before the guy earns a shot based on improved performance. As I said before, they are routinely picking up guys on the cheap and thinking they will magically overcome their proven track records. And then we get idiotic stories like this one from Adam, suggesting that Bruney's performance this season is somehow unexpected or out of character. But really, it's not. It's exactly what the Nats should have expected to see from him.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 2, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Two losses certainly brings out a lot of negativity. It's a long season. Bruney can still turn it around.

And today, it's not like the Nats were facing some slacker. If those two balls Zim smoked hadn't been right at people, who knows how many runs they'd have scored off Johnson early. Lannan isn't the first guy to get burned by Hanley R (and obviously, he wasn't the last.)

25 games in with a tough sked and the Nats are over .500. I'll take it.

Posted by: nats24 | May 2, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Dear Rizzo: please please please....end the Bruney experiment!
And Walker.
And Batista.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | May 3, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

How's this for a fantastical scenario: The Nats eventually strengthen their rotation, via the additions of Strasburg and all the pitchers returning from injury, to the point where they can afford to make Livan their innings-eating, rubber-armed, uber-dependable long man out of the pen instead of a starter (and de facto stopper), picking up for the sometimes inconsistent performance you're likely to get out of some of the younger and/or recovering pitchers of the future who nevertheless will need Livan's starting innings if they're all to have a chance to progress and hopefully succeed...

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | May 3, 2010 2:52 AM | Report abuse

I guess Kevin's anointing rituals include taking the Chosen One to arbitration and beating him down there, huh?

Posted by: AnnOminousOne | May 3, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Unless Bruney has enough skill to throw his breaking ball over the plate, they can just tee off on his fastball. When he throws that over, of course. It's strange to watch a guy at the major league level who can't even generally throw a four-seam fastball over the plate. He's probably damaged goods.

Posted by: Brue | May 3, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

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