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Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman regrets Kerry Wood's workload in rookie season

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 22, 2010; D08

VIERA, FLA. -- In 1998, his rookie season, Chicago Cubs phenom Kerry Wood started 26 games, throwing 2,840 pitches and striking out 233 batters. Nine times he threw more than 120 pitches in a game. For perspective, the Washington Nationals had one game last season in which their starter threw more than 120 pitches.

Jim Riggleman, now the manager in Washington, happened to manage the Cubs in 1998. On Sunday, he compared his latest phenom, Stephen Strasburg, to Wood, acknowledging that "there are a lot of similarities. Very similar talents."

But Riggleman also admitted regret about his handling of Wood, who started his rookie season as a 20-year-old. True, the Cubs were in a pennant race, and regard league-wide for pitch limits didn't match the current adherence. But Riggleman offered no excuses.

"I think if anything that I learned from it, having to do it over I probably would have pitched Kerry less," Riggleman said. "At the time that we had Kerry, my recollection of any criticism I had was 'Why did you take him out of the game?' After the fact it's 'Well, you pitched him too much.' "

Clippard's hole-in-one

On Saturday afternoon, on the par-3 fourth hole at Duran Golf Club -- just a mile down the road from Space Coast Stadium -- Nationals relief pitcher Tyler Clippard extracted a pitching wedge from his bag and took aim at a hole 149 yards away. The green sloped back to front, the pin nestled in the front right of the green. Right away, Clippard liked the feel of his shot. It looked dead-on line.

"I didn't know if I was gonna be too far, short, whatever," Clippard said. "But it hit right behind the hole and just spun right back in."

Clippard, who retold the story on Sunday (for a crowd that included not just reporters, but teammates), described the ensuing scene as mayhem. He launched his club into the air and went sprinting down the fairway.

"I didn't care," Clippard said. "I'd been waiting 15 years to get a hole-in-one."

Clippard was in a foursome that included two friends and fellow pitcher John Lannan. When Clippard extracted the ball from the hole, Lannan took a photo to commemorate the moment. Clippard ended up shooting a 79.

Capps as closer

If the Nationals were to start the season today, they'd use Matt Capps, not Brian Bruney, as their closer, Riggleman said. . . . Top prospect Derek Norris said he is "120 percent recovered" from a hamate bone injury that kept him in a cast until late December.

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