Nats bullpen plays off each other, confident they can get hitters out

With opening day arriving Monday, the lineup sheet for the Nationals’ exhibition against the Yankees lists only two left-handers: Zach Duke and J.C. Romero.

Manager Davey Johnson said at spring training in Viera, Fla., he is confident in the right-handers, and their plus stuff, to be able to go after either side of the plate and not have to be so worried about match-ups.

Right-hander Ryan Mattheus agreed that this bullpen is talented enough to be able to challenge the hitters, regardless of where they step in.

“For our bullpen, I don’t think it is really going to matter, because the stuff down there is off the charts,” Mattheus said. “You got guys waiting in the wings like Christian Garcia to get healthy. Their stuff speaks for itself. You got Henry Rodriguez with a 100 mph fastball. I don’t care if you are standing in the right-handed batters box or the left-handed batters box it is not a comfortable at-bat. There is something to the match-ups. But when you have plus-stuff down in the bullpen it isn’t going to matter much.”

It has been 168 days since the Nationals last played a game here at Nationals Park, a game in which the bullpen played a deciding factor in the outcome.

Veteran Tyler Clippard said the Nats also think big picture and remember the loss to the Cardinals in preparing for 2012.

“It definitely fuels us,” Clippard said. “It might be overstated at times, but it is definitely in the back of our minds. We definitely remember it, which is a good thing. I think any extra type of motivation that you can have going into the type of season that baseball has is going to help. Not that we needed it, but it is definitely going to help.”

Duke will be the go-to lefty out of the pen and in a long season, and an experienced southpaw like Romero could be very valuable. It is likely the Nationals will stick with Rodriguez and endure some wildness to get that 100 mph fastball in front of opposing hitters.

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