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Stammen could be a starter, reliever or both

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Stephen Strasburg threw his third bullpen session of the spring this morning, throwing to Wil Nieves for 12 minutes against an oppressive wind. He latter took to the batting cage to practice bunts.

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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 2010

VIERA, FLA. -- For now, Craig Stammen is fighting for one of at least two open spots in the Washington Nationals' pitching rotation. At least four or five other pitchers -- J.D. Martin, Matt Chico, Garrett Mock and Liván Hernández, to name a few -- are fighting for the same thing.

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But Stammen belongs in a different category than the others. His role is more fluid. His future is far less defined. Unlike other pitchers competing for a rotation spot, Stammen is also seen by the Nationals as a bullpen possibility -- a potential long reliever on a team that hasn't yet identified a perfect candidate for such a role.

Stammen, 25, spent his rookie season (4-7, 5.11 ERA) exclusively as a starter, but the Nationals spoke at times last year about shifting him to the bullpen. Only Thursday, though, did Manager Jim Riggleman acknowledge such a possibility for this season.

"I think we look at Stammen as a guy who could be a potential bullpen guy," Riggleman said. "The other guys we kind of feel like are starters, based on what they've done in their minor league careers. . . . [Ross] Detwiler, we'd be thinking of as a starter right now. We think of J.D. as a starter right now. Right now, we look at Mock as a starter. You never say never, but for the most part Stammen would be the one guy who we think of as both ways."

Stammen doesn't throw particularly hard, but he has the characteristics of a reliever capable of multiple-inning appearances. He has what pitching coach Steve McCatty describes as a "resilient arm." He can induce quick double plays. For now, McCatty prefers Stammen as a starter, "[but] if everybody decides that that's the direction they want to go and we feel he'll help the club better in the bullpen, that's a possibility."

Windy session

Stephen Strasburg, in his third bullpen session of the spring, threw for 12 minutes to catcher Wil Nieves on Thursday morning.

A ferocious wind made it difficult for Strasburg -- and the others in the bullpen -- to demonstrate much command. Strasburg occasionally bounced pitches in front of Nieves, but after the outing McCatty told the 21-year-old not to worry about it.

Family day

Josh Willingham was the lone position player not with the club on Thursday, when position players took their physicals.

Two nights ago his wife gave birth to Ryder Jon Willingham, 22 inches and an even eight pounds.


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