Drew Storen is finally rehabbing after surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow. Brad Lidge is throwing a baseball and should begin a rehab assignment soon after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. And Henry Rodriguez came down with Daniel-Cabrera-itis and forgot how to throw a baseball.
Instead of going over just how bad the flamethrower has been over the past few weeks (minus a few fantastic performances), let's review the candidates for interim closer until Storen is healthy enough to return.
Tyler Clippard - The Frontrunner - 1 Career Save
He wants it. What a trooper this kid has been for the team, doing whatever they have asked when in reality the righty has coveted the closer's job for years now. According to comments the other day (h/t Kilgore) Clippard had this to say, "'I want it bad, I’ve been fighting for the opportunity for three years now. I feel like I’ve been over-stepped a few times along the way for the opportunity to get those saves, for whatever reason'". He has earned it.
His numbers as a reliever have been nothing short of staggering: 201 Games. .185 BAA. .599 OPS Against. 10.6 K/9. 1.063 WHIP. 2.57 ERA.
Ryan Mattheus - The Young Gun - 0 Career Saves
Oh wait. He is hurt. Just like everyone else. Nevermind...
Sean Burnett - The Lefty - 10 Career Saves
When Henry Rodriguez has failed in the past week Burnett has been there to pick him up in spectacular fashion. The first time he came in the bases were loaded after Henry Rodriguez chose to walk them loaded and, with one out, Burnett only needed one batter to get the job done. A double play later and the Nationals were 8-5 winners. Last night, Rodriguez's leash was much shorter - as Burnett started warming immediately after the first batter was walked. Burnett actually entered the game mid-at-bat. He got the job done yet again with a fly out and a line out.
Burnett has been there when the team has needed him and he could very easily slot into that 9th inning role.
Craig Stammen - The Underdog - 0 Career Saves
If you listen to Nats Talk on the Go (Available on iTunes!) you know that Joe and I are huge fans of Craig Stammen. Like Clippard, Stammen is a player that failed as a starter and was successfully turned into a fantastic reliever with some incredible reliever splits.
40 Games. .231 BAA. .622 OPS Against. 9.9 K/9. 1.183 WHIP. 2.93 ERA.
He is sporting even better numbers this season (his first as a full-time reliever) - .200 BAA. .517 OPS Against. 9.7 K/9. .920 WHIP. 1.44 ERA.
He is definitely capable of filling in with a bit more consistency.
Ultimately it's wise that the Nationals use a "Closer-by-Committee" instead of naming a new closer. Brad Lidge will slide in the role as "Interim Closer" when he returns from his injury, but for now the Nationals are making the right call going with an all-hands-on-deck approach. It will help keep the competition on their toes. Though if you ask me, Clippard.
Who would you pick for the Nationals closer? The comments section awaits!