2014 Nationals' Bullpen: Are the Nats Done Adding Lefties To the Mix?

Jennifer Stewart

"I think that was one of the flaws of our plan last year, and that one is on me," Mike Rizzo said in an MLB Network appearance in December when asked about the lack of left-handed options in the 2013 'pen. The Washington Nationals' GM added lefty Jerry Blevins. They have a specialist in Xavier Cedeno. Are the Nats done?

Though no one expects the Washington Nationals to add anything else of significance this winter, having met most of their stated needs, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier this week that he's still open to improving the roster.

"We're still pounding away on some ideas that we have," Rizzo said. "They're usually smaller, more intricate moves at this point of the offseason after you've taken care of your big ticket items like we have."

"We attacked our bullpen shortage, especially from the left side, when we made the trade for [Jerry] Blevins. And we feel good about that." - Mike Rizzo on Nats' bullpen on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

The Nationals felt they needed help in the rotation, so they traded for soon-to-turn-30-year-old right-hander Doug Fister. The Nats' bench was an issue last season, but they bolstered it with the addition of free agent outfielder Nate McLouth after adding a right-handed bat last season in Scott Hairston, who's under contract for the 2014 campaign, and they added some veterans to the mix to compete for the utility infielder job. As for the 'pen? "We attacked our bullpen shortage," Rizzo added, "especially from the left side, when we made the trade for [Jerry] Blevins. And we feel good about that. We feel good about our depth in the starting rotation, in the bullpen and guys that we feel that can fill other positions if need be due to injury."

The deal for Blevins wasn't the only one the Nationals had planned to bolster the bullpen, however, at least  according to the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell.

"They didn't get the Plan A lefty reliever or backup catcher that they wanted," the WaPost columnist wrote in a recent chat with readers. "They wanted Blevins. But they also wanted another quality lefty, too, especially after they got rid of [Fernando] Abad and [Ian] Krol. Will one become available?"

If not, the Nats do have Xavier Cedeno available to fill the role of the left-handed specialist new skipper Matt Williams said he liked to have in his 'pen when he talked to reporters about his ideal relief corps at the Winter Meetings.

"'I personally like a lefty specialist, if you will, that can come in and ‑‑ for that two‑out situation and get them out...'" - Matt Williams on his ideal bullpen

"'I personally like a lefty specialist, if you will, that can come in and ‑‑ for that two‑out situation and get them out,'"  Williams explained. "'I also like a guy that can do that, that we can stretch to another inning. As an example you've got a lefty in that fifth inning or whatever it is, or sixth inning, and then you've got left, right, left following. And he can go back out.'" Rizzo told reporters, including the WaPost's James Wagner, at the Winter Meetings last month, that he felt Cedeno, "...earned the chance to be a left-handed specialist," as Mr. Wagner wrote.

In nine appearances for the Nationals in September, when he finally got a look after moving back and forth between Syracuse and D.C. all season, Cedeno put up a 1.93 ERA and a 0.90 FIP, with no walks and five Ks in 4 2/3 IP in which he allowed just one run.

At Triple-A, the 27-year-old, 6'1'' lefty was (2-0) with four saves, 16 walks (4.19 BB/9) and 45 Ks (11.80 K/9) in 34 1/3 IP over which he had a 1.31 ERA and a 2.82 FIP. Right-handed hitters have a .356/.427/.552 line over 104 plate appearances vs Cedeno so far in his major league career, but he has a .231/.320/.308 line against lefties, and he held left-handers to a .231/.333/.269 line in limited action this past season.

After a strong finish to the 2013 campaign, Cedeno pitched for the Cangrejeros de Santurce in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente this winter, saving four games and posting a 2.49 ERA in 19 appearances and 21 2/3 IP.

Ross Detwiler could end up in the bullpen if he loses out on the battle for the fifth rotation spot since the 27-year-old left-hander has no options remaining. Rizzo has talked about Sammy Solis as a possibility if the left-handers they have in the majors don't work out. Abad and Krol helped settle the Nats' bullpen situation down last season. Can the Nats find another fringy lefty like Abad? Could Danny Rosenbaum or Tyler Robertson, both of whom pitched at Triple-A last season, emerge as options? What about another young prospect like Krol, the Player to be Named Later in last winter's three-team deal with the A's and Mariners who was somewhat surprisingly called up from Double-A in June? Should we expect 6'6'' lefty Matthew Spann (the PTNBL in the David DeJesus trade with the Rays) to get a surprise call up at some point this year? Eric O'Flaherty is still out there...

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