With high expectations, and a Nationals bullpen filled with so many good pitchers, will there be enough work to go around?
On opening day, Stephen Strasburg went seven innings and then Tyler Clippard took care of the eighth. Rafael Soriano arrived in the ninth and got three straight outs for his first save as a National.
Manager Davey Johnson still has his left-handed long man Zach Duke and righties Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus and Henry Rodriguez available to go in game two. With an off-day, he could even even go back to Clippard or Soriano.
Johnson has talked to his relievers and told them Soriano, Storen, Clippard and Rodriguez all have the ability to finish off games.
“I had a little conversation with the bullpen,” Johnson said. “I basically said we got four guys that can close here. Depending on the workload of each of them, Clippard had a really good spring. Storen is probably my back-up closer with Clippard right there.”
Johnson said he would adjust his bullpen for tonight’s game, even with the off-day for those that pitched Monday afternoon.
“I like to divide my bullpen into A and B ‘pens,” Johnson explained. “Like today, I will lean more heavily to set up with Storen even after an off-day. Normally, I tend to let a guy work, have an off-day and then work. All of them are used to pitching back-to-back days. I got a lot of good choices.”
And Johnson said he is not worried about if he was presented with picking a closer in three, four or even five straight games. Would he go to Soriano each time? Johnson said it’s a little early to decide that with Soriano, because he will need more time to work with the veteran.
“I think every closer is different,” Johnson said. “I don’t have a real good feel with him yet. I remember in Cincinnati we used Jeff Brantley four games in a row and then next day Brantley came to me and said ‘Skip, if you can give me a day off, that would be great’. And I said, ‘I think I can do that.’ I used my backup closer that day, Mike Jackson.
“I am sure he will tell me if he is getting overworked. But that is a really good problem to have.”