Nationals bullpen moves on without Matt Capps
In spring training, Drew Storen approached Matt Capps with a hint of apprehension. Capps, a veteran, had signed with the Nationals to become their closer. Storen, a rookie, had been drafted and anointed the closer of the future. Storen saw the clear potential conflict.
"It was kind of interesting when I first met him," Storen said. "I had never heard anything about him. I didn't know what kind of guy he was. I was like, 'This guy thinks I'm the competition. Probably not going to treat me too well.' It was actually the complete opposite. It just blew me away.' "
For the Nationals' bullpen, the trade of Capps to the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night was bittersweet. They had lost an admired teammate; their only all-star was replaced on the roster by Atahualpa Severino, a side-winding lefty from Class AAA Syracuse. But Capps got to play for a contender and one of them, they knew, would get to close.
"It was disappointed in the sense of we're losing a great guy," Tyler Clippard said. "Cappy was a great teammate. On-the-field stuff spoke for itself. Now that it's all said and done, you've got to look forward. I think we'll be fine. Obviously, he did a great job for us. But there are a lot of guys we feel like can step into that role."
For now, the Nationals will use a committee and wait until one reliever emerges or choose whichever pitcher is either throwing best or matches up well against the upcoming portion of the lineup. The three most likely candidates are Storen, Clippard and Sean Burnett.
Storen, a closer at Stanford, wants to prove he can man the ninth inning in the majors. "That's what I've wanted to do," Storen said. He credited Capps's guidance for helping him into the role. He watched how Capps treated teammates so well, how he was always the first one at the park. "Everything," Storen said.
Capps took Storen out for dinner on the first night of spring training, and Storen asked him questions about his career. When Storen arrived in the majors in mid-May, he felt more prepared because of what Capps told him. "He's kind of a guy I looked up to when I started out in spring training," Storen said.
For Clippard, the chance to close would validate a career switch. The Nationals made Clippard a reliever last year, and he immediately made it his goal to become a closer.
"No doubt," Clippard said. "As a reliever coming into it, those are the kind of things you strive to do, to be at the top of your profession. And for relievers, being a closer, that's what that is. I think all of us want that job. At the end of the day, whoever gets it, gets it. And then you go from there."
Burnett has one career save, which came when he and Capps played together with the Pirates. It came last season, after a line drive hit Capps in the elbow and Burnett came on in an emergency.
"I guess if you're a reliever, that's the coolest thing to do, to be a closer," Burnett said. "But I don't think I'm a closer or have the stuff to be a closer. If they want me to get outs in the ninth, I'll get outs in the ninth. We have guys with good arms down there. We'll be fine."
July 30, 2010; 7:00 PM ET
Categories: Drew Storen , Matt Capps , Tyler Clippard , bullpen | Tags: Drew Storen, Matt Capps, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard
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