Quick Links

Clippard continues efficiency in closer role

785922.png

Clippard continues efficiency in closer role

With a two-run lead in the ninth inning, and five straight left-handed batters due up in the Mets lineup, Nationals manager Davey Johnson called on his latest temporary closer. The right-handed Tyler Clippard took the mound for another save situation, not the lefty Sean Burnett who had pitched the eighth in a setup role.

What has been an all-season shuffle of the deck, Johnson said after the Nats Wednesday night win over the Mets hes tired of moving things around.

Ive basically been going to Clip. Ive changed enough roles in the bullpen with the long guys setting up, the setup guys closing, I dont like to keep reverting back and have them guessing out there what their roles going to be, he said.

Clippard shut the door on a scrappy New York lineup and earned his fifth save on the year, the fifth in his last six appearances. The 2011 All-Star who made his name as a setup man now holds the title of closer. It is a role he has told coaches and teammates alike he wants and a position he enjoys.

Clippard takes the mound with swagger and a hop in his step, he brings confidence into a game that he can mow down any part of any teams batting order.

"I would rather face lefties anyway. Hopefully Johnson feels comfortable with me facing lefties regardless, he said.

I feel like I am a guy who can get both lefties and righties out and have proven that over the course of the last three years.

Based on his 2012 splits, Clippard is right. With roughly the same amount of at-bats facing lefties and righties, he has held left-handed batters to a .125 average compared to the .205 mark right-handers have held on him.

Johnson seems to agree Clippard is good against just about everybody and after the game gave some insight into what makes him so dominant.

Against left or right his stuff is so electric. The changeup and his fastball, even when he comes right down the middle with it, it jumps on you and they have a hard time centering on it, he said.

Clippard is starting to collect the saves and now sits with a 2.55 ERA on the year after a slow start to the season. He fits the profile of a major league closer, is pitching effectively in the role, and enjoys the pressure, but what happens when Drew Storen gets back in about a month or so?

Johnson says hell have to relinquish the job at some point.

Actually, his pitching efficiency on closing has been better when he set up. He seems to be more focused and I have no problem going with him. He is going to have to cry uncle, but he likes the fact that hes closing.

Quick Links

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 

RELATED: HARPER GOES YARD IN FIRST AT-BAT OF THE SPRING

Quick Links

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year