There’s no Mariano Rivera in the group, but by adding 267 career saves to their bullpen, it’s safe to say the Nationals recognized the main culprit in last year’s miserable first half.
I believe Matt Capps will come out of spring training with the closer’s gig, but, unlike last year, Jim Riggleman has enough depth now for a credible plan B. Left-hander Eddie Guardado has been a closer - though not recently - but understands what the job requires. He’s not going to swallow hard if the opportunity presents itself; it’s old hat to him.
Brian Bruney has never really been a full-time closer, but based on what I’m told, has the mindset to do it. Yankee broadcaster Ken Singleton says Bruney is one of those guys who wants the ball, regardless of the situation, and isn’t timid about throwing the ball inside.
Last year’s opening day bullpen was a mess, and there wasn’t a whole lot Manny Acta - or Mike Rizzo, who’d been handed the “interim” GM’s job in March - could do about it. They signed Joe Beimel two weeks before the opener as a set-up man, but setting up for who? Joel Hanrahan was given every opportunity but spit the bit, as they say, going 5-10 in save opportunities. Mike MacDougal was signed in early May, spent three weeks in Syracuse, and arrived in DC on May 29. He pitched situationally until mid-June when he got a save against the Yankees, and claimed the job for his own shortly thereafter. His propensity to walk more than he struck out - and arbitration eligibility - likely did him in as far as 2010 was concerned.
With so many free agents still hanging fire, the Nationals - and 29 other teams - are expecting some rapid agreements once names like Holliday, Garland, Damon, Beltre and Guerrero are placed. The idea that so many players would wait much beyond the start of spring training to claim a spot doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
I’d still love to see the Nats sign John Smoltz; his age isn’t an issue with me, and his voice in the clubhouse would have a rapt audience. Orlando Hudson’s name continues to be linked to Washington, but that would seem to indicate that Cristian Guzman would remain at short, and Ian Desmond would at least start the year in Triple-A. There’s no shortage of potential scenarios.