Manager Davey Johnson believes the Nationals bullpen is starting to feel more comfortable with its roles and that has contributed to its success the past few weeks.
The bullpen has been pretty consistent since April 15, going 2-1 with seven saves and a 1.93 ERA in 23 games, allowing just 12 earned runs in that span.
Johnson said rearranging the responsibilities took some time to jell. But that wasn't because the pitchers had lost the belief they could get the job done to start the season.
"I don't think they lost their confidence early in the year, especially with a new configuration and the starts aren't really predictable," Johnson said. "We had some guys had rough outings. So the guys got in early, closers getting used to setting up, and me (deciding) who is going to follow who, (Tyler Clippard) or (Drew) Storen, just that adjustment. Guys know it is feast or famine. They pretty much know their role, know when they are going to be used. It usually takes two to three weeks."
Having only one left-hander, Zach Duke, in the bullpen has also made things interesting for Johnson. Clippard has been a key go-between in that role.
But Johnson said it is more about letting the guys know when he will employ them and then actually following through. Belief goes hand in hand with trust.
"For them, (they need) to get to know that is when they are going to be in the ballgame," Johnson said. "You can tell them all you want to tell them, but until in real life it happens (it doesn't carry much weight)."
Johnson said it was in Pittsburgh when he first reversed the roles of Clippard and Storen.
"It is all about mental preparedness coming out of the 'pen," Johnson said. "It is a big difference knowing if you are going to be in there in the ninth, the eighth or the seventh. It is more of a personal thing with the guys to get mentally prepared for that role."