On Friday night, the Washington Nationals had a familiar problem that has reared its ugly head repeatedly over the first 17 games of the 2015 season. Yes, the offense has failed to come up big repeatedly with runners in scoring position, but the bullpen for the second time in three nights was not able to keep the game tied.
Yes, it is still the first month of the season, but three of Washington’s ten losses have been by one run (3-3 in those games). With the injury to Craig Stammen, Washington has had to rely on the likes of Matt Grace, Tanner Roark, and Rafael Martin to get them thru some key situations. Aaron Barrett, who is off to a good start in 2015, was the pitcher who gave up the game winning hit to Martin Prado last night.
So far, this season, Blake Treinen (0-2, 5.40) has not shown that he can be a reliable eighth inning guy for the Nats, either. In five eighth inning appearances this month, opponents are hitting .381 against him. That’s not good enough to be the bridge to Drew Storen, who has only appeared in six games this season.
Before the season began, it was discussed that Washington would struggle without Denard Span, Jayson Werth, and Anthony Rendon (who began his rehab assignment at double-A Harrisburg Friday). However, you can argue now that the biggest injury to hurt the Nationals this season so far is Casey Janssen.
Janssen, who was signed by the Nats in January, to a one-year, $5 million deal, is currently out due to tendinitis in his shoulder. He has not pitched in a game since March 23 against the Yankees down in Viera. Before Friday’s loss, manager Matt Williams gave an update on how his rehab is progressing:
Janssen is on his way back, but he is not ready to return just yet. However, when he does return, he could be the piece the bullpen needs to get games to Storen on a consistent basis. In 132 eighth inning appearances over his career, he has a 3.58 ERA. Those numbers aren’t great, but they would at least have a reliever who has pitched in late innings before.
For Matt Williams, it would be a lot easier to mix and match to get three outs instead of six. I do like the young talent Washington has in the bullpen, but they clearly do not have their defined roles set up yet. Having Janssen in the fold will allow Williams to diagram more of a late inning plan. Janssen isn’t the greatest of relievers, but for right now, anything is an upgrade when you consider that in the eighth inning, Nats pitchers have a 3.71 ERA, which is tenth in the National League.
It’s not all the bullpen’s fault because the offense hasn’t exactly given them much to work with. The young pitchers are doing okay, but they could use still another veteran like Casey Janssen to give them a little more of a boost.