Sammy SolÃs and the Law Firm have been able to sit back with their shades on while the rest of the Nationals bullpen has been in and out of a revolving door. The bullpen has been less than consistent this year, not just in its performance, but in its personnel. Due to injuries, call-ups, and players being designated for assignment, the supporting cast has been changing all year. The question is, after everyone is properly healthy, who should stay?
Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler are clearly locked in, and SolÃs looks to be a mainstay. Those have been the only pitchers who have remained in the bullpen the entire year. Shawn Kelley, who has a 4.50 ERA and has already given up three home runs, will also be a mainstay in the bullpen, but he is currently on the disabled list, and there's no knowing when he might return. We also have yet to see Joaquin Benoit, the offseason acquisition who was supposed to bring bullpen stability, as he began the year on the DL. Kelley and Benoit are veteran relievers who would likely have guaranteed bullpen spots, and their return might signal a new look for the bullpen.
The bullpen has already gone through numerous big changes since the beginning of the year. Enny Romero, the flame-throwing lefty, was on the opening day roster, but was DFA and picked up by the Pirates after he really struggled to begin the season.
Matt Grace, the versatile lefty, is also on the DL, though he is not likely to spend too much time on the shelf. Though he has struggled along with the rest of the bullpen, sporting a 5.06 ERA (though his opponent batting average is only .167) before suffering a groin injury, Grace likely retains his spot due to his versatility. He can be a lefty specialist, he can be a long man and give you a few innings or he can give you a straight inning wherever you need one, whether that be ahead, behind or even closing if you're in a real bind and the Law Firm isn't available. Once he recovers, he should be able to reclaim his spot.
Trevor Gott looks to have dug out a place for himself in the bullpen. The righty didn't make the opening day roster, and after being called up as an injury replacement, he has pitched fairly well. So far in nine games this season, his ERA is 3.86, opposing batters are hitting .194 and he has given up no home runs. His splits are about even, though lefties are hitting a tad better and righties are striking out significantly more. And he seems to like Nationals Park - in three games (admittedly, a small sample size), he has yet to give up a hit at home. His stuff can be tightened up, but if he keeps on this trend, he could be a very good fit for the bullpen long-term.
Here's where the revolving door truly takes effect. Austin L. Adams, Austin Voth, Carlos Torres and Wander Suero have all spent such limited time with the big club that it's hard to get a good read on what kind of pitchers they are or whether they deserve to stay in the bullpen.
Torres and Suero are currently with the big club. Torres, in four games, has a 4.91 ERA and has yet to give up a hit to a right-handed hitter. He's not going to overwhelm you, but he could give your bullpen some stability, at least until some of the other right-handers come back from injury. Suero made his major league debut on Tuesday and gave up two hits and no runs over two-thirds of an inning. There are a lot of unknowns with him, and only time will tell if he's amazing or a flop. Adams, too, has yet to give up a run in his two appearances, though he's had some trouble with walks. Voth did not appear in a game during his one-day call-up, but he is a starter in the minors with some potential long-man appearances from the bullpen in him. Oh, and he currently has a 0.96 ERA over four starts at Triple-A Syracuse this year.
There are a lot of question marks, especially with those last few bullpen pieces. It could take a lot of work to find the perfect bullpen fit, and there will be even more reconfiguring when guys start coming back from injury. It looks like the Nationals are trying them all out, but they aren't sure who they like yet. Needless to say, the bullpen at the end of the year will look very different from how it looks now.
Liz Barr blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @RaiseTheBarr1. Her opinions on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com's initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.