Brad Hand can’t wait to get started for the Nats in ‘tough’ NL East race

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Bijan Todd
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Brad Hand can’t wait to get started for the Nats in ‘tough’ NL East race originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

It’s been quite a long time since the Nationals faithful have been able to head to Navy Yard to cheer on their squad. Newly-signed Nats’ pitcher Brad Hand cannot wait to throw strikes for his new team, especially considering fans will start to filter in, little by little, to Nationals Park this season with coronavirus restrictions loosened. 

“It’s exciting. I mean, obviously last year was tough and just the—starting spring training, stopping, getting back going, and then playing in front of no fans—I think everybody’s coming into spring with a little bit of a different kind of feel to it,” the 31-year-old lefty said in an interview for Capitals Pregame Live that will air on Tuesday at 6 p.m. “Little bit back to normal, starting to get a few fans in the stands, which is awesome to see. So, we’re excited to get the season started and hopefully see some fans in the stands, which the players love. Hopefully we keep trending in the right direction and back to 100% normal soon.”

Washington signed Hand to a one-year, $10.5 million deal earlier this offseason in a push to add depth to the bullpen rotation. It looks to be a great signing, especially given that Hand led the entire American League in saves in 2020 with Cleveland. His hot pitching is probably what got ‘Mano,’ as they used to call him in the bullpen, so well embraced in the league.

“A lot of the Latin guys call me ‘Mano,’ which is just ‘hand’ in Spanish, so you’ll hear some of the guys call me that,” Hand said. “They’ll ask like, ‘Hey, how did you get that nickname?’ I was like, ‘It literally just means “hand” in Spanish.’”

Well, ‘Mano’ will need to transfer his AL heroics to the National League, especially in the NL East. The late-game fireworks he displayed in Cleveland will be necessary to win in what he described as one of the best divisions in the majors.

“Obviously, it’s gonna be one of the better divisions in baseball and we’re gonna have our work cut out for us, but I don’t think anybody’s scared of the challenge. I think we know what type of team we have with our starting rotation and our lineup and the additions we’ve made in the bullpen,” Hand said. “I think we’re gonna be right there at the top of the division at the end of the year. We know it’s gonna be tough in this division, but we’re just gonna need a group of guys that are all together and will want to bring it every day. That’s gonna be important this year.”

Hand does have experience playing in the division as he pitched with the Florida/Miami Marlins from 2011-15. With big bats on each NL East foe the Nationals will face this year, it will be critical that Hand, along with fellow relievers Daniel Hudson and Will Harris, among others, pitch lights-out in the latter innings.

Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 6 p.m. Tuesday for coverage of the Capitals at Rangers.