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Nats’ bullpen left out in the cold

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Washington Nationals decided to go with one true left-hander out of the bullpen to begin the season. The team envisioned left-hander Zach Duke as a long reliever and wanted right-hander Tyler Clippard to get left-handed hitters out.

The strategy did not work out as planned, and Duke is no longer with the team after being released in June with an 8.71 ERA. The Nationals added left-handed relievers Ian Krol (3.24 ERA entering Thursday) and Fernando Abad (3.52 ERA) as the season went along, with Abad currently on the roster.

With the season winding down, manager Davey Johnson acknowledged that the decision to go with one southpaw out of the bullpen to start the season was a mistake.

"We need to get that established going forward," Johnson said. "Krol has high promise. Abad has done a good job, except he hasn't pitched well off of left-handers. That has to be ironed out going into this last month and for the future. You have to have a left side of the bullpen."

The lack of a lefty hasn't been the relief corps' only issue.

Closer Rafael Soriano, who was signed in the offseason for two years and $28 million, has not had his best season with a 3.65 ERA and 35 saves in 41 opportunities entering Thursday. However, Johnson said Soriano's struggles are not because his veteran is tired.

"I don't think anyone is worn down," Johnson said. "He hasn't made the pitches that he has made in the past. I don't know if the high fastball gets by more in the American League than the National League. I didn't see him last year. I don't think his slider this year has been as good as last year."

Johnson said the Nationals still believe Soriano is their closer.

"He has got the pedigree. We still have the confidence in him," the manager said.

Johnson said he might use Clippard as a closer down the stretch but would prefer to keep him in his eighth-inning role.

"We will see how it shakes out going forward," Johnson said.
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