Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Season of Silence Ends (plus bullpen observations)

You cannot imagine my delight yesterday when, via MLB's GameDay Audio, I tuned into to the splendid efforts of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jagler. Listening to other teams' radio broadcasters just reminds me what a treasure the Nationals' have assembled here. Sadly we only have eight more broadcasts during Spring Training, with another one today.

I promised to write some more observations about the bullpen, which is probably the most intriguing battle going on at Nationals' spring training this year. It's also quite an important one, given the terrific problems the bullpen gave the ball club last year. Here's a run-down of how I think things are going with each pitcher. Remember, I have no inside information, I just listen to broadcasts and note statistics.

Jason Bergmann Poor first showing, giving up a home run, but his second appearance went much better. A place on the 25-man is his to lose.
Brian Bruney He may be feeling some pressure. Although he struck out the side yesterday, it took over 20 pitches; his first outing wasn't very good. He still seems likely to head north, though.
Sean Burnett Roughed up in one outing. Still, he's the first-choice lefty.
Matt Capps His second outing was better than his first. He'll have to maintain a consistent badness to lose his place in the major-league pen.
Tyler Clippard Really laboured yesterday. Like Bruney, he'll get the benefit of the doubt, though.
Jesse English Two outings, one absolutely awful, yesterday's effort wasn't bad. At the moment, he's headed for the minors.
Eddie Guardado First time out, he stunk. Second time out, his fielders let him down. He'll get more chances, but at best he's a long shot for the second lefty role.
Atahualpa Severino One outing so far. He gave up a soft hit, then got a pop-up (as good as a strikeout, in the sabermetric book) and a double play. It actually seemed more impressive than it sounds, because it was all over so quickly.
Doug Slaten Don't see him making it based on his current form. He might be released in the first cut-down.
Drew Storen He's done very well indeed. It's going to be hard to send him to the minors, but I think they will. It would be interesting to bet on who comes up first, Storen or Strasburg.
Aaron Thompson Only one outing so far, sounded strong. Dark horse candidate.
Ron Villone Not looked very good at all. He's got a mountain to climb at this point.
Tyler Walker This is an interesting test case. He did not impress, but he's out of options. I've pencilled him in to go north because so far we've only got one outing to look at; but, like Slaten, he could lose his place if he doesn't show signs of improvement.
Josh Wilkie His stock is rising. He was the first pitcher to get a second look, in Saturday's game, and it sounded like it was an unplanned appearance. He's done well, too, but he'll be a fallback position if one of the men without options flops.
Also running: Luis Atilano (-), Victor Garate (-), Logan Kensing (+), Joel Peralta (-), Ryan Speier (?).

The astute among you will notice that I've only highlighted six names. That's because I think the seventh man will be a starter candidate who will be brought north in the bullpen, someone like Chico, Mock or Stammen.

Mr Riggleman seems to be taking the horrendous showing by the bullpen so far in his stride:
"The first time through everybody struggled," said manager Jim Riggleman. "They didn't really throw strikes so we just give everybody the benefit of the doubt and hope for better outings next time through."

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