Nats will go with a closer-by-committee

PHILADELPHIA - Henry Rodriguez will not be closing ballgames for the Nationals for the near future.

Manager Davey Johnson announced today that he's going to go with a closer-by-committee going forward, and will use Rodriguez - who has struggled in save situations of late - in spots where there is less pressure riding on him.

"Henry has been great," Johnson said. "(Lately), he's been not so great. I think he might be trying too hard. Probably change his role, put him in a little less demanding role, try to get him back on track. As far as who my closer's going to be, it's just going to be when I get into a ballgame, see who's fresh, which I like the matchups better. That's the way I'll go."

Rodriguez has blown three of his 12 save opportunities this season and has allowed nine earned runs and 13 walks in his 18 innings. He's been pulled from two of his last four outings in the middle of the ninth inning after getting into trouble early in the frame.

One guy that likely won't be largely included in the group of guys who are options to close is Tyler Clippard. Johnson has said in the past that he doesn't want to move Clippard out of his eighth-inning setup role because he likes him in that spot, and while Clippard might get a save opportunity from time-to-time, it sounds like he won't be one of the main pieces of the closing committee.

"I'd kind of like to keep him where I've got him," Johnson said. "But he's pitched the ninth inning in ballgames for me. I'm not necessarily eliminating anybody."

Johnson's pool of candidates for save situations will likely be made up primarily of Sean Burnett, Craig Stammen and Clippard.

Burnett might be the lead candidate for saves, given his experience in that role over the last few seasons. The lefty has also done an excellent job lately, twice coming into the ninth inning with runners in scoring position and bailing Rodriguez out of a tough spot.

"He's kind of my riverboat gambler, bring him in, seems he's impervious to the situation," Johnson said. "Makes good pitches."

Ryan Mattheus won't be available to be a part of the ninth-inning mix, as he was put on the DL today with a plantar fascia strain in his left foot. The timing of Mattheus' injury certainly hurts the Nats, who are having late-inning relievers drop like flies, with Mattheus joining Drew Storen and Brad Lidge on the DL.

"I really like Mattheus," Johnson said. "He's got a little bit of a tear in (the plantar fascia) and he's going to wear a boot for a couple weeks. That's a big blow. And at the same time, having Henry have another hiccup, that didn't help either. We've been kind of devastated. It's been kind of making us regroup, revamp. But it's not like something we're not used to."

Johnson reiterated that he still has a lot of confidence in Rodriguez despite his recent issues.

"Last time out, Henry was pretty good," Johnson said. "Seems like he's had a little more problem on the road than at home. Whether he's more comfortable at home, I don't know. But I still think Henry's one heck of a pitcher. Just maybe a different situation."

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