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Washington Nationals news & notes: Long relief, pitch clock; DH in D.C.

Notes and quotes from the Nats’ brass on a variety of topics…

MLB: Winter Meetings Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Long Relief:

Paolo Espino worked out of the bullpen early in 2022 for Washington, making his first 17 appearances in a relief role (and posting a 2.03 ERA, 3.04 FIP, four walks, 20 strikeouts, and a .228/.257/.317 line against in 26 2⁄3 IP), then he transitioned to the starting rotation, with his next 16 trips to the mound as a starter for the Nationals (with a 5.09 ERA, a 5.16 FIP, 15 walks, 60 Ks, and a .296/.329/.515 line against in 74 1⁄3 IP in those outings).

Overall, Espino, 35, in 19 starts and 83 2⁄3 IP as part of the Nats’ rotation this past season, put up a 5.81 ERA, a 5.68 FIP, 19 walks (2.04 BB/9), 67 Ks (7.21 K/9), and a .301/.337/.547 line against, finishing (0-9) in those outings, and in relief, Espino posted a 2.12 ERA, a 2.81 FIP, five walks (1.52 BB/9), 25 Ks (7.58 K/9), and a .246/.277/.333 line against in 29 2⁄3 IP out of the bullpen.

“For me, we’ve asked him to do a lot of different things, different roles,” manager Davey Martinez said in his post game press conference following Game 161 of 162 this past October. “He did well coming out of the bullpen. We needed him to start some games.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

“Overall, I thought he kept us in a lot of the games when we needed him … but overall he was put in situations where some days he succeeded, some days he started and kept us in the game. At the end of the day, I thought he did really well for us when we needed him.”

Where, ideally, he was asked, would he put Espino in 2023? Rotation? Bullpen?

“I think for me it all depends on how we need him, and how we use him. But if I had to pick I like him as the long guy out of the ‘pen. I really do,” Martinez said.

Cory Abbott, 27, who was selected off of waivers from San Francisco in May and who made 16 appearances and nine starts for Washington after he was called up in June and July and stuck around after August, gives the Nationals another starting/long relief option for 2023 along with Espino.

Abbott put up a 2.00 ERA, 4.67 FIP, and a .125/.176/.375 line against in nine innings pitched as a reliever, with a 6.00 ERA, a 4.67 FIP, and .263/.374/.526 line against in a total of 39 IP as a starter.

So how would their manager prefer to use them in 2023? Starting depth? Long relief?

“I thought they did a fine job last year,” he said at the Winter Meetings in early December. “If we could utilize any of those two as a starter and the other guy in the bullpen, we’ll do that. But when we get to Spring Training, we’ll stretch them out and then decide then what we’re going to do with them.

“Having both of them gives us a lot, like I said, a lot of versatility that they can do both.”

Time, Time, Time, Is On Our Side:

“In an effort to create a quicker pace of play,”’s Anthony Castrovince wrote in breaking down the rule changes for Major League Baseball in 2023 and the pitch clocks which MLB is adding in particular, “… there will be a 30-second timer between batters. Between pitches, there will be a 15-second timer with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base.”

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked at the Winter Meetings last month about how he thought the clocks would affect his young club, some of whom have had experience with timers in the minors.

“I think it’s definitely going to help us for sure,” Martinez said of some of his club’s young players having played with pitch clocks already. “These guys have done it. They understand it, and they do like to work fast. A lot of our young pitchers do work fast. I think it’s going to definitely benefit us.”

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Hitters, he added, need to get in the box and stay as focused as ever pitch to pitch since they’ll be coming at them quicker than usual.

“They’ve got to understand, once they swing at the pitch, against the ball, they’ve got to be ready to go. They’ve got to understand they’ve got to pick up the signs from the third base coach and get ready to hit it right away. And they’re going to really enforce it. They told us that right from day one. It’s going to be enforced.

“So unless they want to get called a strike, they’d better be ready to go and get in that box.”

DH In D.C.?:

After they signed Jeimer Candelario and before they added Dominic Smith and then Corey Dickerson to the mix, Davey Martinez was asked at the Winter Meetings last month if he wanted to have a dedicated designated hitter or if he’d prefer to use the DH as a spot to rest his players on days they don’t play the field?

“We definitely would like to have one, but … I think we have enough moving parts where if we had to platoon two guys, we could do it. It would be nice to have a big bat in our lineup.”

Joey Meneses as DH most of the time? Is Meneses going to move around and get reps in left and at first, and then DH on his days off as Martinez suggested before the signings added options?