JUPITER, Fla. - With less than two weeks left in camp, Davey Johnson is still fielding questions about whether he needs a second left-hander in his bullpen. And the Nationals manager continues to insist that he’s confident that his hard-throwing right-handers can be effective against even the most dangerous left-handed sticks.
One word summed up Johnson’s feelings: “Stuff.”
The Nationals continue to look at left-hander Fernando Abad, a non-roster invitee, as a potential complement to southpaw Zach Duke in the ‘pen. And they continue to monitor the progress of lefty Bill Bray, who was sent to minor league camp in the first round of cuts to work on improving his mechanics and arm slot.
But with four guys who have closed in his bullpen - righties Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Henry Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano - expected to head north on the 25-man roster, Johnson is sure he can counteract most any left-handed hitter with a power arm.
“I’ll be picky creating, in my mind, the match-ups which is the best right-hander to go against left-handers,” Johnson said. “History showed me a lot of set-up guys that are very successful against both left and right. Ideally, I have a comfort zone of having lefties, creating when I have a match-up in my favor. Again, when I have confidence in the right-hander getting them out, it’s not much difference. I mean, I’d rather have a right-hander that can get both of them out than a left-hander who can’t.”
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that general manager Mike Rizzo would keep an eye on the waiver wire or engage clubs in a possible deal for a left-hander. But Johnson doesn’t seem to think that’s necessary.
“I’m comfortable with what we have now,” he said. “I’m as comfortable with what we had at the end of last season. But that’s up to Mike Rizzo. He doesn’t sleep, I don’t think. He’s always thinking about something.”
The presence of Soriano and the other three pitchers who have closed helps create Johnson’s comfort zone and diminish the need for the additional lefty.
“Quality left-handers, that’s hard to come by,” Johnson said. “That’s not something that grows on trees.”
And Johnson isn’t interested in making a change just for change’s sake.
“The way we’re configured right now, I don’t know if any of the guys that were on my club last year that I would let go just to pick up a left-hander. ... I’m more concerned with getting enough work these next games to some guys who need it.”
Johnson cited Storen, Rodriguez and Ryan Mattheus as pitchers who need some additional innings. Two of them are among the manager’s group of relievers who have closed.
“I have four guys that can close. I think that’s case closed,” Johnson said. “If they close, do you worry about if they right or left? ... I think if you look at the four guys I have and you compare their numbers against lefty and right, you see they’re pretty good. ... I don’t see an emergency.”