Between Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off grand slam, Jayson Werth’s epic at-bat and Livan Hernandez’s rubber-armed start Friday night, one crucial performance went overlooked. Tom Gorzelanny came out of the bullpen and threw three scoreless, one-hit innings, a clutch performance by a forgotten pitcher.
Gorzelanny had not throw in 13 days, since an appearance in Colorado. Gorzelanny does not want to pitch out of the bullpen. He unabashedly wants to start. But if he is going to be in the bullpen, he wants to pitch like a reliever.
“I feel bad,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I tried to protect him a little bit, and he came to me about a week ago and told me, ‘If I’m in the bullpen, use me.’ So I plan on using him.”
Gorzelanny has made only three appearances in August, but in those games he’s allowed only one earned run in 6 1/3 innings. Johnson put him in the bullpen as a long reliever, a security blanket. Gorzelanny isn’t thrilled with relieving, but if he’s out there he’d like to be used like a reliever. Even after his three innings last night, Gorzelanny said he could pitch again either tomorrow or Monday.
“I don’t need days off or weeks off,” Gorzelanny said. “If I pitch, I can come back the next or the day after in any situation. If he wants me to face a lefty, I can do that the next day.
“If I’m going to be in the bullpen, I want to be a member of the bullpen, not just an emergency guy. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. All I know is I’m in the bullpen.”
He’s not happy about it, but he is making the best of it. Johnson reiterated that moving Gorzelanny to the bullpen was not a demotion. He already knows what Gorzelanny can do (“he’s got good stuff,” Johnson said) and wants to give Ross Detwiler and Chien-Ming Wang opportunities.
But the bullpen work, and lack thereof, will likely hinder Gorzelanny’s salary for next season. The Nationals control Gorzelanny’s rights for one more season in arbitration. But not pitching him, they are weakening Gorzelanny’s case. That’s not to say that’s the Nationals’ motivation. But it is the reality of the situation.
The Nationals could bring Gorzelanny back next spring to compete for a starting spot. They traded three nominal prospects to the Cubs for him last offseason with the intent of making him their fifth starter, which they did. In 15 starts this season, Gorzelanny went 2-6 with a 4.46 ERA.