WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 18: Relief pitcher Tyler Clippard #36 of the Washington Nationals throws to a Cincinnati Reds batter during eighth inning at Nationals Park on August 18, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Nationals defeated the Reds 3-1. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Having added Gio Gonzalez to the mix in the Washington Nationals' starting rotation, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo talked to reporters recently about the depth in the organization that allowed them to make the trade with the Oakland A's and about the competition there will be this Spring to decide which pitchers head north as starters and which end up in the pen. "We've got [Stephen] Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, John Lannan," Rizzo said, "We also have guys who can start and compete for a starting job, there's Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen." The decision, assuming everyone's healthy and ready to start the season on time, will come down to which two pitchers of the three: Wang, Detwller and Lannan fill out the rotation and what role the pitcher who doesn't make it will play. The Nats' general manager said all three will likely start the season with the team.
"They are three quality pitchers," Rizzo explained, "so I don't see them not being on the big league club. But there's going to be competition so we'll see how that all pans out during Spring Training." Gorzelanny transitioned to the pen again late last season after starting 15 games for Washington. The 29-year-old left-hander told reporters, including the Washington Times' Amanda Comak that he'd prefer to start, but worked well out of the pen and now simply wanted to know which role he'd play.
Stammen, 27, spent most of his time starting at Triple-A Syracuse last season, but he'll have a hard time winning a starting job in the 2012 Nats' rotation, and he worked exclusively out of the pen for Davey Johnson when he was called up in September.
Gorzelanny and Stammen as the left and right-handed long men. Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen as the A pen with Henry Rodriguez, Ryan Mattheus, newly-acquired right-hander Ryan Perry, Atahualpa Severino and Yunesky Maya battling it out to see who stays in the Nationals' pen and who ends up In Syracuse.
In a recent interview, the Nationals' general manager told MLB Network Radio host Mike Ferrin that one thing there was still work to be done this winter, 'We'd like to supplement our bullpen a little bit. Get a little veteran presence in there," Rizzo said. Todd Coffey, 31, was (5-1) with a 3.62 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 6.94 K/9 and 3.02 BB/9 in 69 games and 59.2 IP with Washington last season, but since he told MLB.com writer Bill Ladson he wasn't sure what hte future held for him in early December, not much has been heard about the 6'4'', 240 lb right-hander. Could Coffey fill a role again, or will Washington find another veteran presence? Can right-hander Rafael Martin qualify as a veteran presence and continue the unllkely journey he's taken through the Mexican League to the majors? Will a rehabbed Cole Kimball play a role in the 2012 pen?
ESPN.com's Buster Olney had the Nationals ranked eighth overall in the majors on his recent list of the Top 10 Bullpens in baseball. The ESPN.com writer cited their 3.20 team ERA (5th overall in MLB in 2011) and the presence of 27-year-old right-hander Tyler Clippard, "... who had an 0.84 WHIP and held opponents to a .535 OPS," while also posting the, "... lowest BABIP among relievers with at least 60 innings last season," and Drew Storen, whose 43 saves were the 6th most in the majors, as the reason for his high opinion of the Nats' pen, calling Clippard and Storen, "... good anchors for what should be a good bullpen."
Should the Nationals trade from their bullpen depth to get the center fielder they want, a possibility which seems unlikely these days, Mr. Olney's colleague and the Nats' former GM Jim Bowden suggested that unsigned former Phillies' closer Ryan Madson might make sense in Washington. In an article on likely destinations for remaining free agents, he suggested a 4-year/$40 million dollar deal might get you the right-hander, who was tied to Washington earlier this winter, though reports Jayson Werth "recruited" his former teammate were exaggerated according to the Nats' right fielder.
Do the Nationals need to add a veteran arm? Do they already have the pieces of a strong bullpen in place? Is the sprint in from the bullpen reason enough to bring Todd Coffey back?