Asked recently whether he’s more comfortable with the current makeup of the Nationals bullpen than he was earlier in the season, manager Davey Johnson responded with a fairly resounding, “Yeah.”
The two left-handers haven’t been on the Nats’ major league roster for too long, but they’ve already made a fairly significant impact. Abad (a 27-year-old signed to a minor league contract this offseason) and Krol (a 22-year-old acquired by the Nats in the Michael Morse trade) have combined to throw 10 1/3 scoreless innings at the big league level so far this season.
Abad has allowed just three hits and a walk over his 7 2/3 innings, striking out six. Krol, meanwhile, has worked 2 2/3 innings over three appearances and surrendered just one hit, striking out three.
The presence of these two southpaws (along with Xavier Cedeno, another lefty added to the ‘pen recently) has given Johnson something he lacked through much of the season’s first two months - a legitimate left-handed presence out of the bullpen in the late innings.
The Nats broke camp with Zach Duke as the lone left-hander in their bullpen, but he was used as a long reliever and wasn’t effective when he did see game action. Duke allowed lefties to hit .448 off him, and rarely entered games in high-leverage situations.
Johnson isn’t the type of manager who likes having a strict left-handed specialist - what some call a LOOGY (lefty one-out guy) - in his ‘pen, but he does enjoy having the option to match up. Tyler Clippard has great reverse splits against left-handers, but with Krol and Abad also now on board, Johnson has taken advantage of his new bullpen flexibility.
On Saturday, with the Nats and Twins tied in the top of the 10th and Minnesota having the go-ahead runner at second with one out, Johnson called on Krol to face the Twins’ Chris Parmelee, a left-handed hitter.
Krol got Parmelee to ground out, and then retired Pedro Florimon to fly out to end the threat.
In game two of the doubleheader Sunday, with the Nats trailing 4-3 in the sixth, Johnson tabbed Abad to face the left-handed-hitting Justin Morneau with a runner at third and just one out.
Abad got Morneau to pop out, holding Eduardo Escobar at third, then retired Jamey Carroll on a line out to second. The Nats’ deficit remained at one; they then tied the game in the bottom of the frame and went on to pick up a one-run win.
Cedeno has appeared in just one game with the Nats this season and likely will be sent back to Triple-A Syracuse when the Nats bring either Ross Detwiler or Stephen Strasburg off the disabled list - moves they hope will come this week.
But Abad and Krol look like they might be sticking around for a little while. Those two have done nice work in the early stages of their stints with the Nats, and as a result, Johnson feels a lot better about the bullpen options he has to work with during tight ballgames.