After right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez pitched a season-high three innings Friday night to earn his first win as a Washington National, manager Jim Riggleman was asked Saturday if he envisioned Rodriguez growing into a long reliever-type role.
Riggleman listed Rodriguez, right-hander Cole Kimball and left-hander Doug Slaten as bullpen members who he feels comfortable sliding into such situations, but he cautioned that, especially in National League games, long relief is somewhat of a “misnomer.”
“It’s more like early relief,” Riggleman said. “Because generally you’re going to have to pinch-hit for them in a couple innings anyway, so it’s more early than long unless your starter just can’t answer the bell … But in most circumstances your long reliever is an early guy who might get two and a third or two and two-thirds or something and pinch hit for them.”
On Friday, Rodriguez entered Washington’s series-opener at Baltimore to begin the fifth inning after starter Jason Marquis gave up eight hits, three walks and five runs in four innings of work.
The decision was made to remove Marquis and insert Rodriguez after the bottom of the fourth, at which point the Nationals held a one-run lead. But then Washington tacked on six runs in the top of the fifth, which dramatically changed the circumstance under which Rodriguez entered the game.
Riggleman said Saturday he has no reservations with plugging Rodriguez into tight situations; that, after all, was the plan Friday night. But as far as late innings go, Riggleman said those frames generally are reserved for right-handers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
Rodriguez threw a season-high 41 pitches in three innings Friday. He allowed two hits, tallied three strikeouts and picked up the victory. Rodriguez has not given up a run in three appearances since allowing a run and three walks May 8 at Florida.
“He’s gotten better,” Riggleman said of Rodriguez. “Each time out he’s made a little progress each time. His bullpen sessions were much better the last few times, and it gives us confidence that he’s going to eventually take that into the game. And I think the last three times he’s been in a game he’s done that.”