Too much Tyler Clippard?
On Friday night, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman wanted to avoid using Tyler Clippard as a reliever. The Nationals had the previous day off, but Riggleman hoped he could provide extra rest for his most-used relief pitcher.
However, Riggleman ran into a familiar quandary. His chosen stand-in for Clippard -- in this case Brian Bruney -- couldn't wiggle out of the inning, and he had to bring Clippard into the game to complete the job.
The pattern of relying on Clippard has led to him pitching 18 innings, tied for the most in the majors. Clippard has also been perhaps the best reliever in baseball, with a 0.50 ERA and a major-league leading 23 strikeouts. But Riggleman knows leaning on Clippard so much may lead to wearing him out.
"It seems like whoever we give the ball to other than Tyler, before we get to Tyler, gets into a little trouble and we end up having to call on Tyler," Riggleman said. "We're just going to have to ask some other guys to step up and get that job done. Because we can't continue using Tyler Clippard at this pace."
So far, though, Clippard has not allowed his heavy workload to affect his sterling performance. His previous work as a starter helps his durability.
"I feel good," Clippard said. "I try to work hard after outings to keep myself good to go, basically. Before I was a reliever, I was always throwing 150 innings a year. You want to be a guy that can go out there. Whatever that takes, I'm going to keep doing it. So far, so good."
Ideally, Riggleman wants to use Clippard in spurts no longer than three or four outs. But so far this season, Clippard has recorded at least five outs in five appearances, including one in which he pitched three full innings.
Riggleman would prefer to use Bruney more often in the spots he's used Clippard. Lately, though, Bruney's control has faltered. He walked in the winning run Monday in Chicago, and Friday he allowed three hits while retiring two hitters. Bruney has 12 walks in 11 1/3 innings this season.
If Bruney cannot fix his control problems, Tyler Walker may become a late-inning alternative to Clippard. Walker has been dominant at times, striking out 14 batters in 11 1/3 innings. But he's also allowed four runs in one appearance and three in another this season.
"Sometimes, it's a matter of the part of the lineup that's coming up," Riggleman said. "You just need somebody with the best stuff. That's Bruney. We need Bruney to translate that good stuff he's got into more strikes and less strenuous innings so that we can leave him out there. That would be really huge if we could get Bruney and/or Walker going to take some of those innings off of Clippard."
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