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Washington Nationals' Closer Matt Capps On Sirius/XM's Power Alley.

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My favorite radio show, Sirius/XM's Power Alley's with Seth Everett and Jim Duquette welcomed Washington closer Matt Capps onto satellite radio Tuesday afternoon to talk about what's going on in the nation's capital, and why it was that the former Pittsburgh Pirates' stopper decided he wanted to pitch for the Nationals...The 26-year-old right-hander struggled last season, posting a 5.80 ERA in 57 games and 54.1 IP in which he walked 17 (2.8 BB/9) and struck out 46 (7.6 K/9) while recording 27 saves and finishing (4-8). Mr. Duquette's first question is similar to one I asked Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman in an interview a while back, Why would you sign with a 103-loss team? Was it their old fashioned recruiting effort?

Matt Capps: "Oh, absolutely. You know, they were up front with me all through the process with Mike Rizzo, and I was familiar with a couple of guys from Pittsburgh with Bryan Minniti in the front office there now and Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, and yeah I talked to all four of those guys, they expressed the interest of wanting to have me there, Nyjer and Burnie were very excited about the possibility of me coming back and you know I felt like it was a great fit for me and on top of that I really liked what Mr. Rizzo has done with the team and trying to get the pieces that they were missing last year, so I'm looking forward to what can be this year."

Q: Have they talked to you about being "the" closer?

Matt Capps: "A little bit, not a whole lot, you know, but I'm not worried about it. I treat every Spring Training and every game as an audition, and I feel like you've got to earn everything you do in this game and nothing's ever going to be handed to you, and nothing's ever been handed to me before, so I don't expect that to be any different, so I'm going into Spring Training with the mindset that I've got to be the best I can be and go out and prove to everyone and myself that I deserve the job. You know, but when it's all said and done I'd rather be a set-up man on a winning team than a closer on a losing team, so if we're winning and I'm not closing I'm OK with that. But, I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't want the job and I didn't want to be the closer, but winning takes the priority it, and I do whatever I can do to help the ballclub."

Q: Is there a different mindset when you're pitching in the eighth inning instead of the ninth?

Matt Capps: "You know everybody says there is...and yeah sure there definitely is, you know, you're the last line of defense for your ballclub. You can go out and give up the lead in the eighth inning and then your team can come back and win it in the ninth, you don't have that luxury when you're pitching, especially on the road in the ninth inning, you know, you give up the lead and the ballgame's over, so there is a different mentality, it's kind of a, more of a do or die right now sort of a mindset, you know that's something I like so..."

Q: Did you learn from the closers you worked with in Pittsburgh, like Salomon Torres and Mike Gonzalez in Pittsburgh?

Matt Capps: "Oh, absolutely. You know watching Gonzo make that transition, you know, he's a great pitcher I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot from Roberto Hernandez who was in Pittsburgh in '06, my rookie year, learned a whole lot just sitting and picking his brain and being around him. Same being said from Solomon, just the way he goes about his business day in and day out. I was very fortunate my first couple of years to be around a lot of great guys, and guys that have made the transition from being a starter in the minor leagues or throwing in the middle innings somewhere in the minors and then getting to the big leagues and now all of a sudden they're pitching in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning with the game on the line. John Grabow's another guy that...I learned more from Grabow probably than anybody, just on how to prepare and how to attack fast hitters...(inaudible)...I was very fortunate to be around some of those guys, very much looking forward to picking Eddie Guardado's head, in Spring Training and throughout this season and you know hopefully on the same hand relay some of the knowledge and some of the experiences I've had so far in my career with some of the younger guys that I'll be around too..."

Q: You seemed excited about being in Pittsburgh with the direction they were going, were you surprised when they non-tendered you?

Matt Capps: "Yes and no. You know kind of surprised it happened the way it did. I think the Pirates have a lot of positives to build on and are going in the right direction, it doesn't surprise me that I'm not there to see the fruits of my labor for the last four years coming to fruition, but you know, I believe in what they're doing, I think...what's the word I'm looking for...the future is a little brighter for them than what it has been. But I was surprised the way it happened the way it did with them just non-tendering me and then getting nothing in return. That kind of shocked me, but you know if it had been via trade it wouldn't have really surprised me at all." 

Q: Did you anticipate being non-tendered? 

Matt Capps: "No, I mean even up until midnight, I went to bed that Saturday night thinking I would be tendered and my agent called me about ten minutes after midnight and said they had non-tendered me, so it did surprise me that it happened like that, I really expected to get a phone call that week before saying I'd been traded. That whole week leading up to it I was reading the same things you guys were reading, that I was going be the closer for the Pirates going into 2010, but with that being said I understand it's a business, and these things happen. But, you know, just the biggest thing it shocked me and surprised me with how it happened."

Q: Spring Training optimism? Will it be real in the Nationals' camp? 

Matt Capps: "Well I think so, I mean I think we're already there. I was in DC this weekend and the guys I was around were Zimmerman and Marquis and Adam Dunn and Pudge Rodriguez and those guys, there's a lot of optimism around there right now, and from my side of it, coming into this whole process, we sat in the bullpen last year when I was with Pittsburgh and each time, each game we played with Washington it was, man these guys are just missing one or two things, they've got a great offensive team and if they can put some pitching out there on the field, they're going to be good...and that's exactly what Mr. Rizzo has done. He went out and got Marquis, he got Guardado, Brian Bruney...you know, he's made a lot of improvements and he's still working on it, you know, he's done some good things on the offensive side as well, and I'm listening and following the Orlando Hudson thing very closely and a couple other guys that they've talked about, so there's already optimism around there. I think the sky's the limit for the this club, there's a lot of young guys, inexperienced guys, that had to come in and try to step in and be big for them last year and they got that experience under their belt which is huge. Now, if they can come in to Spring Training a little more relaxed and a little more knowledgeable as to what to expect, I'd expect a lot of the younger guys to have good years, and then to have Strasburg and Drew Storen and guys like that coming up behind them, Espinosa was a solid middle infield guy for them last year in the minors, you know if he's on his way, there's already a lot of things to be excited about. We'll see what it's like in Spring Training. I've got just Pittsburgh to compare it to, but I'm excited about it already, I'm as excited as I've been going into Spring Training in a long time."

• ?'s About Matt Capps?:

• In a recent Federal Baseball poll, Matt Capps was the runaway winner of the race to be the 2010 closer...Is there any doubt in your mind that it's his job for this season?

• With all the bullpen additions DC GM MIke Rizzo's made, does Drew Storen stand a chance of making the twenty-ten bullpen? 

• Will Capps end up staying in Washington beyond this season?

• Will Capps regain his old form, or struggle (to a career high in saves?) like he did in '09 or be back to the Capps of old? Here's what Charlie Wilmoth from the SB Nation's Pirates site Bucs Dugout had to say about Capps regaining his stuff in an email interview?

• If Drew Storen outpitched the rest of the bullpen this Spring, would you give him the closer's job?