VIERA, Fla. - If there's a surprise in Nationals camp, it's right-hander Brian Broderick, the Rule 5 draft pick who has forced his way into the team's bullpen discussion.
In 8 2/3 spring innings over five appearances, Broderick has allowed four hits, a run, walked one and struck out four. He's got a 1.04 ERA.
"I would have to say I'm surprised because I'd never seen him." Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "I'm very pleased with what I've seen."
Because he was taken in the Rule 5 draft from St. Louis, the 24-year-old must remain on the Nats' 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Cardinals. The Nationals could work out a deal with St. Louis to retain Broderick's rights, which would allow Washington to keep him and send him to the minors.
While the Nationals are still trying to settle the back end of their bullpen, Broderick could fit into the relief corps as as long man.
"His future is probably in that long (relief) area or as a starter," Riggleman said of Broderick. "He's not necessarily a guy who's going to throw an inning and be out of there. ... First, we got to see if he makes the team."
Because the Nationals let swingman Miguel Batista depart via free agency to St. Louis, Broderick could inherit that role. It's a good place for a young guy to learn; if the Nats keep Broderick, it's a role in which they could essentially hide him for the year to retain his rights. Broderick has made 69 starts in his 89 appearances over four minor league seasons.
"Long relief in the National League - a better terminology is early relief," Riggleman said. "If you pitch long and it's early, it probably means you're losing and you probably have to pinch hit for him anyway, so he's probably not going to pitch for too long."