As the Nationals welcomed the Miami Marlins in for a three-game series, they joined the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers as the third team to bring back the bullpen cart this season. The cart is an optional perk, and a handful of Nationals relievers expect to decline the ride. Sean Doolittle, the all-star closer who has been on the disabled list since July 10 with a foot injury, endorsed the bullpen cart after riding in the one employed by the Diamondbacks this season.
Doolittle thought a cart made perfect sense for Nationals Park, especially for humid Washington nights like Friday’s. As of now, his bullpen mates do not agree.
“I am not going to ride it in, no,” Trevor Gott said before Friday’s game. “I like the jog in, gets the blood pumping, gives you time to gather yourself. I prefer that, but if other guys want to give it a try, hey, that’s their thing.”
The Nationals looked into a bullpen cart in July, secured a sponsorship from WGL Energy and then waited four weeks for a Florida-based company to build a customized edition. Nationals owner Mark Lerner has been eyeing a bullpen cart for a while and had a hand in designing this one. The cart features a Nationals logo on every tire, a blue hat on top and baseball mitts behind each headlight, to make them look like baseballs when turned on.
Manager Dave Martinez, who has no reason to ride the cart, will be impressed if it can shorten games by a minute or two. He will also hope the Nationals don’t need to use it much Friday, with ace Max Scherzer taking the mound and the team needing a strong outing to aid its taxed relief corps.
“If it makes the game quicker, awesome,” Martinez said with a smile.
Some Nationals relievers, like Gott and Matt Grace, considered the cart from an analytical perspective. Gott will stick to his routine of jogging into the game but said he could see how some guys may want to steal an extra warmup pitch or two. Grace isn’t sure if the cart would get him to the mound faster, since it drives along the warning track instead of taking a straight line to the mound through the outfield grass. He would consider riding in it if time is saved, or if he could get a few extra warmup pitches. Or if the Nationals let him drive it.
Glover, who is filling in as the Nationals’ closer after spending most of the season recovering from a shoulder injury, is adamantly opposed to the bullpen cart. It does not seem like that will change any time soon.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” he said. “Now if the bullpen is across the street or something, I might take it. But it’s not, so I can run. I’m off on that.”