Tyler Clippard can no longer call his spring training perfect. The sky had already darkened Sunday afternoon by the time Clippard took the mound. After he threw his very first pitch, the menacing clouds opened up and the wind howled. Umpires waved the players off the field. Clippard’s day was over before it had a chance to start.
So, yeah, something has gone wrong for Clippard in Viera. Otherwise, everything has gone his way. Spring training results tell lies as often as they provide insight, but in every measurable way Clippard has quietly been one of the Nationals’ best pitchers. In eight outings, Clippard has allowed zero runs over eight innings on two hits and two walks, striking out 12.
“I don’t read into it too much,” Clippard said. “I’ve been pitching late in a lot of spring training games and facing a lot of hitters that are going to be spending a lot of their time in the minor leagues. You can’t really be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going to be the best. I’m going to put up these numbers the whole year.’ I feel good. I feel like everything is where it should be. That’s all I can ask for. Whether I’m giving up runs or not is secondary.”
Clippard knows better than to put stock in his performance during spring training. But in all the areas it is important to put stock into, Clippard has thrived. This is his fourth spring as a full-time reliever, and after leading the majors in relief over the past three seasons, Clippard has honed how he prepares for the season.
“Just knowing what it’s going to take to get through that grind of a major league season, and then preparing accordingly, it’s helped to have the same people I’ve worked [out] under for the last six years,” Clippard said. “My trainer in the offseason, we talked extensively on what it’s going to take and where I was having some issues.
“I feel good. All I’m worried about is my health and mechanics, putting the ball where I want to. All of that this spring has been better than it’s been in three or four years. I’m real happy with how everything has gone so far for me personally.”
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FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
The Nationals will play at 6:05 tonight in Kissimmee against the Astros. Chris Young will start for the Nationals, his final outing before he decides on his future. Wilson Ramos will handle the catching; Kurt Suzuki is the only Nationals’ regular staying back in Viera.
DAYS UNTIL OPENING DAY