Spring training in Nationals camp has been fairly quiet. Players know their roles. When all of the regulars play, Davey Johnson has been using the same lineup, the one he will likely use on opening day. Starters are gradually building volume and arm strength. The only group on the roster that still has several moving parts is the bullpen. And by the end of the week, Johnson and the Nationals will start bringing the competition into focus.
Johnson said there will be another round of roster cuts later this week, after Wednesday’s split squad games. There will likely be no surprising names headed to minor league camp, probably some of the relievers in major league camp as invitees. Slowly, the Nationals will begin moving closer to the roster they will field on opening day.
And by next week, Johnson will start using relievers in their respective roles, using them in their respective innings, back-to-back and stretching them out to further ready them for the season. “I’ll start mixing them in and lining them up next week,” he said. (Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano are on different throwing programs, however, and won’t throw in back-to-back games or stretched over multiple innings, respectively.)
The composition of the bullpen is mostly set. Soriano, Clippard and Drew Storen are all but guarantees. The Nationals have said they aren’t set on any fixed number of left-handers because of the right-handers good reverse splits. As a result, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus and sole left-hander Zach Duke are also safe bets to makeup the bullpen. The final spot has two leading candidates: left-hander Fernando Abad and flame-throwing right-hander Henry Rodriguez.
Johnson, however, suggested that he will keep Abad in camp longer than most of the other pitchers, intimating the left-hander wouldn’t make the active roster to start the season. The Nationals have been high on Abad’s arm and his potential this spring.
Rodriguez, who is out of major league options, made his spring debut on Saturday after returning from August elbow surgery. Johnson said he wants a full season of healthy Rodriguez. “I’m looking for consistency out of him,” Johnson said.
Asked how much he will weigh Rodriguez’s situation, Johnson threw his support fully behind the right-hander: “I’m not going to lose a good talent. In ’11, he showed he had the stuff to close and was a backup closer for Storen, and was the primary one last year. He’s obviously not someone I’m overlooking. He’s one of my favorites.”
>>> Christian Garcia is on an accelerated rehab program that his troublesome right forearm is pain-free. The right-hander, who the Nationals hoped to stretch out as a starter this spring, is still planning to play catch on March 17 after a four-week shutdown.
>>> Nate Karns, who has been dealing with tightness in his upper right leg, is scheduled to have x-rays on his leg, Johnson said. He has already had an MRI. His pitching timetable hinges on the results of the tests.