Wednesday, February 17, 2010; 6:11 PM
Last season, Ron Villone was a central figure in the Washington Nationals' bullpen, first stabilizing it in May, largely destabilizing it thereafter. The lefty didn't allow a run during his first 20 appearances. After June 11, Villone had a 6.54 ERA. Washington's continued reliance on Villone underscored the team's lack of veteran depth. This year, the bullpen is improved, and Villone will have a tougher time cracking the roster. But he'll at least receive a shot. Wednesday, the Nationals signed Villone, 40, to a minor league deal, providing the lefty a chance for his 16th professional season. Villone finished 2009 with a 4.25 ERA in 63 appearances (48-2/3 innings). He also had a 5-6 record; only one pitcher on the roster, John Lannan, finished with more wins. Villone has a reputation as a hard worker and an engaging teammate, and last season he provided advice to many of Washington's younger pitchers. He also passed along an herbal tea recipe; before games, many Nats pitchers sipped the Villone-recommended drink. Since Villone last appeared with Washington, the team has fortified its bullpen with numerous trades and free agent signings. Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Eddie Guardado, Tyler Walker and Miguel Batista, among others, have been added to the mix.