Rizzo comfortable with bullpen construction (Nats have a lead)

The Nationals chose to open the season with just one left-hander in their bullpen, and that's the way things will stay for the time being.

Despite the Nats having a bullpen ERA of 4.48 over 64 1/3 innings, 21st in the majors, general manager Mike Rizzo is happy with the current construction of the 'pen. Zach Duke is currently the lone left-hander, but the Nats have a number of righties (Tyler Clippard, Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen among them) who have good reverse splits, meaning they've had good success against left-handed hitters.

"I like where our 'pen is at," Rizzo said. "I think they're just starting to come around and pitch like they're able to pitch. Zach's pitched very well, I thought. His numbers aren't indicative to the performance that he's had. I like where the rest of our bullpen is, too."

Duke has a 5.91 ERA in 10 2/3 innings this season, but much of the damage against him came in his first appearance of the year, when he allowed five runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings against the Reds.

Over his last three appearances, spanning four innings, Duke hasn't allowed a run, has given up three hits and has a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

If the Nats wanted another lefty in their 'pen, they've got a red-hot one at Triple-A Syracuse right now.

J.C. Romero, a veteran left-hander signed to a minor league deal towards the end of spring training, is tearing it up at Syracuse so far, going eight innings without allowing an earned run. Romero has given up six hits, struck out 11 and not walked a single batter.

"He's throwing very well against lefties and righties," Rizzo said. "Trying to increase his workload each and every time out and see where he's at. If needed, he's a guy we feel comfortable reaching for."

With Henry Rodriguez seemingly starting to put it together and have fairly consistent success of late, there isn't an opening in the Nats' bullpen for Romero or another left-hander. But if someone goes down with an injury or begins to scuffle, Romero could be a nice option.

Meanwhile, Chris Young's first start with Syracuse came on Tuesday, and the results couldn't have been what the veteran righty was looking for.

Young allowed six runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings, walking three, striking out two and surrendering three home runs. The numbers weren't pretty, and the reports that Rizzo got on Young backed up the stat line.

"He was kind of spring training-esque where he was fighting his command and wasn't hitting his spots and that kind of thing," Rizzo said. "But the arm was working good and the velocity was where it's supposed to be."

Update: Hey, a two-run inning! Hey, a lead!

The Nationals put up a two-spot in the second inning tonight, with Danny Espinosa's double to right-center plating Ian Desmond and Denard Span's two-out infield single allowing Espinosa to come in.

This is the first time the Nats have held a lead since Saturday. Yes, four full games passed without the Nationals having a lead.

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