Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Miguel Batista is likely to serve as a long man in the Nats' bullpen.
You had to figure all along, though, that Batista was strong candidate to make the club, if for no other reason than his track record. The 39-year-old right-hander has done just about everything in this game, from starting to closing to serving every other role in between. That versatility makes him valuable to the Nationals, who feel the need to carry a long reliever who can also make a spot start if needed.
Batista's numbers this spring -- five runs, 10 hits in 8 2/3 innings pitched -- aren't anything spectacular, but the club isn't making its decision based on that.
"Batista is one of those guys, for myself, I go on the track record of a long season," Riggleman said. "Last year, he pitched very effectively for Seattle, in the low-4.00's ERA in a tough American League, and handled a lot of roles. Pitched middle of the games, late in games, situational stuff. He was used in a lot of ways. He's a guy we're going to count on when the bell rings to do a lot of things for us."
So the only remaining question in the bullpen appears to be whether the Nationals decide to carry a seventh guy or not. If they do, Tyler Walker seems the likely choice, unless the club wants to keep lefty Jesse English (who has never pitched above Class AA).
Now, how does Riggleman intend to use all of these relievers?
"In a perfect world, we want to know that Opening Day," the manager said. "A few days before Opening Day, we want to nail down how we're going to use our bullpen. But sometimes the players' performances make you alter some things. Somebody steps up and shows you they can handle more crucial outs later in the game."
Capps is the closer ... for now. Don't be surprised if Riggleman has a short leash on the right-hander, who has not pitched well this spring. Bruney (who has had a very good spring) figures to be the primary eighth-inning guy. Burnett will be used in the seventh or eighth inning, usually when there are some tough lefties in the batter's box. Clippard and Bergmann are more middle men, with Clippard also used a lot against left-handed hitters. Batista's the long man. Walker, if he makes it, probably would be used initially when the Nats are trailing and need an inning here or there, though he could push his way into a more prominent role if he pitches better than he has this spring.
"We have a good idea, but it's fluid, it's ever-changing," Riggleman said. "You'd like to be able to know this is the way it's going to go and your confidence level in those guys is such that you can stay with it. That's what we're striving for. The players, they'll let you know if they're going to handle those roles."