Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

7th Bullpen arm competition getting interesting


Is Abad in line to make this team? Photo Houston 2012 official via

By and large the entire 25-man roster is mostly set for this team.  Only an injury is likely to change the names of our bench or our rotation.  The biggest spring training competition remains the name of the 7th man out of the bullpen.  And we got some interesting notes this week that may illuminate who that name may be.

Just for review, I’m considering these 6 guys locks to make the team, either due to their contract, their option status or their earning the spot: Soriano, Clippard, Storen, Mattheus, Stammen and Duke.

The leading candidate for the 7th spot has always been Henry Rodriguez: he has no options, the GM loves his arm and when he’s on, he is the embodiment of “unhittable.”  But there’s a slew of possible issues with Rodriguez, not the least of which is the fact that he’s not yet recovered from his off-season surgery.

I had been advocating (partly out of fond memories, partly for self-interest since I know his cousin and think I could swing some free tickets) for Bill Bray to make the team as a 2nd lefty out of the pen and a LOOGY-focused guy.  However, he struggled in his ST appearances and he was sent to minor league camp yesterday (3/3/13).  Davey Johnson was quoted as saying that Bray’s mechanics are still not right, and it seems more likely now that he’ll be working in Syracuse for at least the beginning of the season.

Meanwhile, Christian Garcia has succummed to yet another injury, this one a “partial tear” in his forearm that (so far) won’t be treated surgically.   For a guy who has already had 3 arm surgeries, you have to wonder if he’ll ever be healthy enough to pitch for this team.  For what its worth, apparently the words “partial tear” are the same thing as “strained tendon” in this case, so perhaps it isn’t as bad as it sounds.  In any case, i’m guessing this little setback makes it certain that Garcia is not going to be the 7th guy out of the pen.

Meanwhile, out of nowhere Non-roster/Minor league signing Fernando Abad has looked pretty good so far; in 3 appearances he’s given up just 1 hit and 2 walks against pretty decent competition (B-r rates his opposition as an 8.3, where 10=all major leaguers).  Abad doesn’t have the greatest MLB numbers (5.09 ERA for Houston in 2012), but has looked decent in small samples so far this spring.

We’ll see how things play out from here.

3 Responses to '7th Bullpen arm competition getting interesting'

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  1. This is a fun story to follow.

    Thanks for the link on Christian, I missed it earlier.

    Mark L

    6 Mar 13 at 9:29 am

  2. It does seem to be shaking out this way, at least now. From what I have seen, though, I am not a huge fan. I’d guess that he opens the. Season in the pen but Bray or Garcia (fingers crossed) take over in May/June.

    Kind of makes the Soriano signing look better.


    6 Mar 13 at 9:49 am

  3. Even if he does open the season with the team, its such a low-risk signing that it still could be worth it. He’s likely on a combo deal major/minor that pays him something like 600k if he makes the team … so if they cut him in May, they’re not out a ton of money. Kinda like the Lidge signing last year.

    That being said, I notice Abad only has like 1.113 in service time … so he can be sent back down if he has options (I havne’t figured that out). So maybe we bounce him up and down.

    Todd Boss

    6 Mar 13 at 10:50 am

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