A few pregame notes from Nationals Park before the second game of the Nationals' series with the Mariners - and the Nationals' latest attempt to reach .500.
* Ryan Zimmerman, who was working with instructor Jeff Garber on throws from third base before the game, still didn't look completely comfortable with his new throwing mechanics; a handful of his throws were a little short of coach Trent Jewett at first base, and Garber took Zimmerman aside a couple times to drill certain aspects of his mechanics. But he made some good sidearm throws, and threw a couple strikes on what would have been routine balls, and manager Jim Riggleman said he was happy with how Zimmerman looked. "I think the ball was coming out of his hand better," Riggleman said. "He had a little more velocity. He was coming out with a good rhythm, good mechanics. I haven't seen him throw every day, but what I've seen, I liked what I saw today."
* Ryan Mattheus, who pitched two scoreless innings on Tuesday night, has thrown 4 1/3 scoreless to start his career in the majors, and Riggleman said he's getting more comfortable with the idea of Mattheus pitching in late-game situations. "Certainly, I wouldn't hesitate to do that," Riggleman said. "Between the seventh and ninth, if Drew (Storen) and Clip (Tyler Clippard) are fresh, we wouldn't go there (to Mattheus) yet. But certainly, he's thrown good enough to give us confidence that when Clip needs a day off, we would use (Mattheus) then."
If you're keeping track, Mattheus would be the sixth reliever the Nationals felt like they could use in late-game situations, joining Storen, Clippard, Sean Burnett, Todd Coffey and Henry Rodriguez. The Nationals had plans at one point for Rodriguez to be their setup man, and the way they've used him has shifted between late-inning appearances and mop-up work. Rodriguez's stuff is about as inconsistent as his role; he's got a fastball that regularly touches 100 mph and a nasty high-80s slider, but he's walked 16 batters and thrown five wild pitches in 20 1/3 innings. But he hasn't given up a hit, and has only walked two, in his last three outings. "I think the pace he's coming along is really good," Riggleman said. "If he's on his game, he's just overpowering. We want to get him to the point where he's that more often than not, and we feel like we're getting closer to that."
The Nationals are actually at a point now where they need to get work for their bullpen; they've played so many odd games lately, with lopsided scores or late comebacks, that Clippard has had four days off and Storen has had three.