Davey Johnson may still be relatively new in his tenure as the Nationals' manager, but he's already spouting what has become a familiar recent refrain: "I'm going to be a little short in the bullpen today."
Saturday's doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates has the potential to tax even the most rested relief corps. But the Nats are already a man down after right-hander Henry Rodriguez was sent home because of strep throat.
"I think he came in, was looked at at (head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz) sent him home so he doesn't infect the rest of us," Johnson said.
Luckily, Friday starter Tom Gorzelanny went seven innings, meaning the bullpen had to cover only two innings. Coming off Thursday's off day after traveling back from Anaheim, Calif., and the Nationals relievers should be well-rested. Tyler Clippard needed only 12 pitches to get through the eighth inning and Drew Storen threw just seven pitches in the ninth before picking up the victory.
Johnson said he's not averse to using relief pitchers in both ends of a doubleheader, and Saturday's single-admission structure - as opposed to a day/night arrangement where players have a few hours to kill between games instead of 20 to 30 minutes - could conspire to test that strategy.
Game 1 starter Livan Hernandez has worked at least six innings in 13 of his 18 outings this season and Game 2 starting pitcher John Lannan has hit that mark nine times in 18 tries. In his last two appearances, Lannan has worked 5 2/3 innings.
Johnson said that left-handed reliever Doug Slaten, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 4 with irritation in his pitching elbow, has begun a throwing program. However, Johnson cautioned that Slaten is at least one to two weeks away from taking the next step to a rehabilitation assignment.
"He's got to get into some games, so he's at least a week or two," Johnson said.