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Nats Bullpen Shines In The Florida Sun

[February 17th] -- Why is it that bloggers and beat writers are paying so much attention to the Washington Nationals reserves these days, in particular the team's bullpen? Because we're trying to dig up good news to report so close to the beginning of spring training.

And, let me tell you, the bullpen is good news.

There is going to be some real competition this spring for the available spots in the team's pen. Chad Cordero, Gary Majewski, Luis Ayala, Joey Eischen and Mike Stanton are guaranteed spots on the opening day roster. If the Nats carry twelve pitchers and six starters (assuming the loser of the Ryan Drese/Tony Armas Jr. battle goes to the bullpen), there remains one position open and three men to fill it. The battle will likely be between newcomer Felix Rodriguez and Jason Bergman, who pitched very well last season. Travis Hughes, and probably Bergman, will be the odd men out to start the season.

How good is the Nationals bullpen? Very good. In a combined 347 innings last season, the team's returning pitchers gave up 335 hits and walked 120 while strikeout out 239, a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. They combined for a tremendous 2.51 ERA. They allowed an average of 1.3 baser unners per inning. The Braves' bullpen was horrible by comparison. The division champions threw 363 innings and gave up 387 hits. They struck out 281 while walking 169. They had an ERA of 4.66 and allowed 1.6 base runners per inning. Their strikeout to walk ratio was only 1.6:1.

Great teams don't need great bullpens, but average teams most certainly do. Some in the Nats' blog-o-sphere grow weary of having only the bench and bullpen to be proud of. However, for a team like the Nationals, the reserve players can make the difference between a 70 win season and an 85 win season.

With spring training about to start, I think a number somewhere in the middle seems to make sense.

I will be so relieved not to hear "And here comes Tony Blanco to the plate"
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