Friday, April 8, 2011, 3:07 p.m.
By Mark Zuckerman
NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals enter Friday's game with two victories this season, each of them games that included a save situation. And each time, manager Jim Riggleman called upon Sean Burnett to close it out.
That doesn't, however, mean the Nationals have settled upon Burnett as their closer.
Riggleman reiterated Friday afternoon he's still open to using either Burnett or Drew Storen in save situations, depending on the situation at hand.
"Early on here, we'll continue to look who's coming up," the manager said. "If we just had nothing but two right-handers who could hit the ball out of the ballpark, I might want Storen facing them. If it was a left-hander who could hit it out of the ballpark mixed in there, I'd probably have Burnett face them."
Burnett got the ball Thursday night in Miami with the Nationals leading the Florida Marlins 5-3 in the 11th and retired three of four batters faced to earn his second save in as many chances.
Storen, though, pitched superbly in the eighth and ninth innings, retiring all six batters he faced, striking out three. Though the game was tied at the time, Riggleman said he would have left Storen in for the ninth inning had the Nationals taken a lead.
Though they're comfortable using a closer-by-committee approach for now, the Nationals do intend to start clarifying roles at some point. Riggleman said he'd like to establish a routine where one reliever consistently pitches the seventh inning, another pitches the eighth and another pitches the ninth. That would allow the manager to avoid making double-switches so a reliever can pitch multiple innings without his spot in the lineup coming up.
"We don't want to be doing that," Riggleman said. "We want to get it to the point where if we need somebody in the seventh, we know who it is. If we need somebody in the eighth, we know who it is. And if we need somebody in the ninth, we know who it is. We're moving toward that."
Mark Zuckerman also blogs about the Nationals at natsinsider.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MarkZuckerman.