McCatty: “No doubt” bullpen can be as good as last year

All you have to do is get to the sixth or seventh inning.

That is what successful pitching staffs can do and that separates them from the have nots.

Imagine if that was all the starters had to do: just go six or seven.

With the Nationals bullpen a position of strength last season, general manager Mike Rizzo hopes the pieces he has added to the staff in the offseason can solidify the relief corps to be even stronger this season.

Rizzo wants them to be so good that games feel abbreviated to six innings because they can get nine outs with seamless precision.

Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty is intrigued by the possibilities.

“If they’re as good as they were last year, I really will be very happy,” McCatty said. “I have no doubt they can do that. Sean Burnett was absolutely fantastic and so was Tyler Clippard. It is like with those guys, it doesn’t matter who they are facing, left- or right-handed, because they both have effective pitches against the other side.”

McCatty said Burnett and Clippard provided a solid one-two punch.

“Burnie, with his sinker to right-handers, and Clippard’s breaking ball got a lot better,” recounts McCatty. “Clippard, to right-handers, and his changeup to left-handers (got guys out). So it is like having another right-hander or left-hander in there. You are not really concerned with what is coming up.”

McCatty was also impressed with rookie closer Drew Storen after Matt Capps was traded to the Twins.

“I thought Storen had a very good season last year,” McCatty said. “He is going to be a little more mature with just the experience (gained from last season).”

The list goes on and on with guys like Craig Stammen, Collin Balester, Todd Coffey, Henry Rodriguez, Elvin Ramirez and many more.

“It is going to be really interesting because there are a few guys that are going to have a spot, just because of the success they had in the past, McCatty said. “(But) everything is up for battle.”

With all the quality hurlers available in camp, McCatty says the Nationals can only be better because of it.

“Competition always makes things better,” McCatty said. “I have never felt someone should just sit back and say, ‘I did this so this should be automatic.’ I think it is going to be really good because guys will get a chance to pitch. When you got guys throwing 100 miles per hour, it might make you try to turn it up or be better out there.”

Overall, McCatty is thrilled with what is in store for the pitchers this week and next.

“I think it is going to be really good,” McCatty said. “I sit back and go, ‘Whoa!, There (are) a lot of guys to choose from.’ Just getting innings for everybody is going to be a chore in itself.”

With so many pitchers and only one scheduled split-squad game, McCatty thinks that will mean a lot of morning games for the pitchers on the minor league side of the campus.

“We are going to need guys to get out and pitch,” McCatty said. “Are we going to be the Phillies with (Roy) Halladay and those guys bringing it up there? We are going to be a different type of staff as far as starters go.”

McCatty said he likes his starters as well, especially with a veteran like Livan Hernandez returning.

“I can’t wait to see Livo pitch,” McCatty said. “Everybody talks about wanting to watch the guys that throw hard. I get just as big a kick out of watching Livo pitch. It is just fun to watch.”

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