Luke Erickson: Do Nats have bullpen arms ready on the farm?

It’s never been lost on me that some folks are only interested in the Washington farm insofar as who can replace (fill in name of player struggling). These days, it’s the Nationals bullpen where the firemen are bringing the gas and not the water, if you know what I mean.

Before I go any further, let me be very plain: I believe the Tony La Russa-style bullpen with so-called roles is both overblown and overrated. I’m with Dick Radatz, who famously sneered, “Your job is to throw strikes when I put your (gluteus maximus) out on the mound.”

While the usage of relievers in the 2016 World Series gives some hope to the old-school approach, I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that it’ll come back around just yet. Too many people are attached to the misleading stat (and the “wild thing” spectacle) that the “closer” celebrates, and it’s too convenient for managers to excuse not using their best reliever in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings because they’re being “saved for the ninth.”

The team’s fifth-starter struggles has prevented the Nationals from even contemplating a conversion to relief for A.J. Cole or Joe Ross, which is compounded by the struggles of the Austins (Voth and Adams) at Triple-A; neither seems viable if there continues to be a merry-go-around, or heaven forbid, another injury.

Instead, there’s now word that top pitching prospect Erick Fedde will be taken out of the Harrisburg rotation and used in relief in preparation for a recall to Washington when the Nats can make room on the 40-man roster and/or the “Super Two” deadline has passed.

In the very short term, this also helps the Senators, whose bullpen meltdowns have been just as common as in D.C. despite having a couple of very hard throwers, one of whom (Jake Johansen) was released yesterday. The other, Jimmy Cordero, has struggled mightily (13.12 ERA, 2.41 WHIP, 14 walks in 13 2/3 IP).

Unlike Koda Glover a year ago, there is no reliever at high Single-A Potomac who seems likely to rise that quickly (or anytime soon); likewise for low Single-A Hagerstown. Both of those Single-A teams are using much older pitchers in relief while the younger, more promising arms are starting, which is not uncommon in the minors.

Despite the Fedde news, the advice for the aforementioned “get rid these bums” crowd is to root for one of the Ross/Cole/Jacob Turner trio to establish himself as the No. 5 starter and give the Nationals at least one more option for converting a starter into a reliever

Luke Erickson blogs about the Nationals’ minor league affiliates for NationalsProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter: @nats_prospects. His thoughts on the Nationals’ farm system will appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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