Nats going with closer-by-committee

Nats going with closer-by-committee
May 22, 2012, 10:44 pm
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PHILADELPHIA -- One night after another near-meltdown in the ninth inning, Henry Rodriguez is being moved out of the Nationals' closer role, with manager Davey Johnson saying he'll instead use a committee of relievers in that spot.

"Henry has been great, he's been not-so-great," Johnson said before tonight's game against the Phillies. "I think he might be trying too hard. Probably change his role, put him in a little less-demanding role, try to get him back on track."

Thrust into the closer's role after both Drew Storen and Brad Lidge succumbed to injuries, Rodriguez opened the season with five consecutive saves converted and zero earned runs allowed. But in 12 appearances since, his ERA sits at 8.38 and he's blown three save opportunities.

That doesn't include two games in the last week in which Rodriguez has gotten himself into a jam and had to be bailed out by teammate Sean Burnett, including last night's 2-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park.

Having already gone through three closers, and without another experienced ninth-inning arm in his bullpen, Johnson said he'll mix-and-match moving forward, choosing his relievers based on the situation.

"It's just going to be when I get into a ballgame, see who's fresh, which I like the matchups better," the manager said. "That's the way I'll go."

The most likely choices for such duties include Burnett (who owns 10 career saves), Tyler Clippard (one career save) and Craig Stammen (zero career saves), though Johnson today reiterated the important role Clippard already holds as his top setup man.

"I'd kind of like to keep him where I've got him," Johnson said. "But he's pitched the ninth inning in ballgames for me. I'm not necessarily eliminating anybody."

One other strong candidate to close would have been Ryan Mattheus, but the right-hander was placed on the disabled list today with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and will miss at least the next two weeks.

"That's a big blow," Johnson said. "And at the same time, having Henry have another hiccup, that didn't help either. We've been kind of devastated. It's been kind of making us regroup, revamp. But it's not like something we're not used to."

Mattheus' injury opened a spot in the bullpen for Chien-Ming Wang, who was activated off the DL and is available in relief tonight. The Nationals, though, prefer not to use Wang (who a career starter who pitched 5 23 innings Saturday for Class AAA Syraucse) until he's had a full four days of rest.

Wang was already scheduled to be in Philadelphia today to throw a bullpen session in front of coaches. Now, he'll remain with the club as a long reliever for the foreseeable future, even though he's made only five relief appearances in his career.

"I'm just glad the team still gives me this opportunity," the Taiwanese right-hander said through interpreter John Hsu. "I'm going to try my best to get the job done and try to help the team win the game."