PHILADELPHIA - You've got to appreciate Tyler Clippard's honesty.
Asked how he'd feel about being given a shot at the closer's role, the 27-year-old righty didn't mince words.
"I want it bad," Clippard said today. "I've been fighting for the opportunity for three years now. I feel like I've been over-stepped a few times along the way for the opportunity to get those saves, for whatever reason. I don't really know. But they have a plan and I trust their plan.
"We've had a good year this year and we've been winning. You can't really go against the grain as far that stuff is concerned. But, yeah, I would love an opportunity."
This isn't news to the Nationals. Clippard told the Nats brass at the end of last season that he'd like to get some save opportunities, but has yet to be put in that role, even with Drew Storen and Brad Lidge injured and Henry Rodriguez struggling.
Clippard might not get the chance to close going forward, either. Manager Davey Johnson said today he'd prefer to keep the 2011 All-Star in the eighth inning for the most part, although he didn't rule out Clippard working his way into the closer-by-committee mix.
Clippard is roommates and very good friends with Drew Storen (the Nats' usual closer, when healthy), and Clippard said his buddy is well aware of his desire to get some action in save situations.
"He knows. I talk to him about it all the time," Clippard said. "It's not a secret. I said this before. If you're a bullpen guy in the big leagues, in my opinion, you want to be a closer. That's the premier job as a bullpen guy. If you're not going to be a starter, you might as well want to do that. There's no secret.
"It's the kind of natural progression of anybody's career. You want to be the best at what you do. In my opinion, the guys who are the best at what they do in the bullpen usually get closers jobs. That's what you want to do."
Joining Clippard in the bullpen tonight will be Chien-Ming Wang, who was activated off the disabled list today.
Wang will likely be kept on his current throwing schedule, meaning he won't pitch again in a game until Friday. The righty's next turn would be Thursday, but the Nats have off that day, so Wang will be bumped back a day.
The veteran hurler showed up to the park today expecting to just throw a bullpen session, but the team caught him by surprise when they told him he was being activated. Wang said last week he'd be open to coming out of the bullpen, and he reiterated that message today.
"I'm just glad the team still gives me this opportunity," Wang said through interpreter John Hsu. "I'm going to try my best to get the job done and try to help the team win the game."
Wang's throwing routine could make his time in the 'pen tricky, because he takes a long time before a start to get loose and uses long-toss as a method to warm-up his arm.
"A lot of times he likes to throw long and I don' know how many pitches he needs to get really feeling good," Johnson said. "Today I'll probably warm him up during the game and count his pitches, monitor his time. He's too valuable to this organization and his future's too valuable that I'm not going to use him as a normal reliever. I'm going to give him plenty of time while he's out there before he comes in the ballgame."