The Nationals' bullpen continues to take shape with the signing last week of reliever Brad Lidge. The veteran of the Phillies and Astros is a two-time All-Star and could go very far in shoring up the back half of the bullpen, securing the seventh, eighth and ninth frames.
Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty said last week that he could envision Lidge as a guy who could finish off the seventh inning, or maybe go a full eighth inning and give way to Drew Storen. Or better yet, McCatty said Lidge could relieve Storen if the talented young closer needed a day off after consecutive appearances.
This a big news for the Nationals, as is the progress of left-hander Ross Detwiler. The former Missouri State hurler was the sixth overall selection in 2007 and has fought through various injuries to return to 100 percent health and is ready to go for 2012.
I wrote about the possibility that Detwiler would be an option as the team's fifth starter here. McCatty believes Detwiler offers a critical strength as both a starter and reliever on this season's roster.
"We will see how spring training goes," McCatty said. "We have six guys going for five (rotation) spots. So whatever happens in that situation, if he goes to the bullpen and pitches out of there for a while, (that's fine). You are always going to need other starters during the season. I am sure that when that happens, he will be fully capable to do that because he was throwing the ball great (at the end of 2011). He did an outstanding job."
McCatty believes if that fifth spot is open, however, Detwiler can stay as the starter for the entire season, something he hasn't been able to do yet in his career.
"He is ready to start," McCatty said. "Just imagine two years ago, we had problem where we had to hold Detwiler back. (Back then), if we were talking about it, (we thought) he may not even make the rotation. So it is a good thing (where he stands now). We will see how spring training rolls out. Detwiler will be very valuable, starting or in the bullpen."
McCatty said Detwiler is a different pitcher now compared to 2009 because of his success in the final month of last season. In September, Detwiler surrendered just two earned runs in his final three starts (19 innings), winning two games.
"I think he is finally crossing over to knowing he is a big league pitcher and having confidence," McCatty said. "He has worked very hard on his mechanics to get back on line. His velocity is back to where it was when he signed. I think he is going to do a really good job for us."