Even with the changes recently in the outfield, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was quick to point out that his biggest concern at this moment is the status of the pitching staff.
A great deal of focus recently has been on the outfield with the acquisition of left fielder Jonny Gomes from Cincinnati, today’s pending option of center fielder Roger Bernadina to Syracuse and various reports that the Nationals were interested in outfielders from other clubs, such as Denard Span and B.J. Upton.
“I am more concerned with the welfare of the pitching staff and the bullpen then I am about matching up my offense against the opposing pitcher,” Johnson said.
One reason has been the inability of the starters to go five or six innings in the last few games. Livan Hernandez lasted four innings against the Marlins on Wednesday. Jordan Zimmermann went 6 2/3 innings in the series opener against Florida but gave up six runs. Tom Gorzelanny lasted just three innings last Sunday in Los Angeles.
The bullpen has had its troubles recently and Johnson believes it is because he has had to work them too much in the last week or two.
Todd Coffey, Henry Rodriguez and Drew Storen allowed runs in their last appearances. Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Ross Detwiler each surrendered at least two hits in their most recent opportunities.
That has led to big problems for the Nationals, compounded by an offense that has scored, minus a four-run outburst in the ninth inning against Florida in Game Two, just six other runs in the past four games. Florida managed a stunning nine runs in the eighth and ninth innings during the series sweep.
“We are not as short (in the outfield) as we are in the bullpen,” Johnson said. “The bullpen is where I have overtaxed them. I think the clarity of that will come once we get past the trading deadline to get a little bit more normalcy. I am hopeful that I will be able to set up the bullpen (so) I won’t be in a situation where I have had to stretch the bullpen.”
Will that clarity come in the form of a trade? It seems as if Johnson had his way, the Nationals would make moves in center field and on the pitching staff come Aug. 1.