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Clippard stays as closer, Lidge setting up

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Clippard stays as closer, Lidge setting up

BOSTON -- Brad Lidge made seven relief appearances for the Nationals in April, before he required surgery to repair a sports hernia, and all seven came in the ninth inning or later.

After about six weeks on the shelf, Lidge is back in the Nationals bullpen. But you probably won't be seeing him pitch the ninth inning unless something out of the ordinary happens.

Manager Davey Johnson said today he plans to keep Tyler Clippard in the closer's role for the foreseeable future, likely until Drew Storen comes back from elbow surgery in mid-July. That leaves Lidge in the setup role he was originally signed to hold.

"I know Bradley can close ballgames," Johnson said prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Red Sox. "And I'll probably keep him in that group with Sean Burnett and my closer, Clippard. Keep him in that threesome there. Hopefully I'll get a lot of work for Clippard, and he'll need some relief."

That was the first time Johnson specifically used the word "closer" when describing Clippard, but it had become fairly obvious the right-hander had inherited the role over the last 2 12 weeks.

Johnson has turned to Clippard in each of the Nationals' last five save opportunities, dating to May 22 in Philadelphia. And the All-Star setup man has successfully converted all five opportunities, dominating opposing hitters in the process.

Clippard has yet to surrender a hit since taking over closer duties, and over his last 16 appearances he's allowed only one earned run and three hits (all singles).

Lidge, meanwhile, blew two of four save chances (and posted a 5.14 ERA) in April before suffering his injury. Signed over the winter for 1 million after saving 223 games for the Astros and Phillies, the veteran was expected to serve as a setup man and mentor for Storen.

Lidge made two rehab appearances for Class A Potomac and was due to make at least one more before coming off the disabled list. But with Henry Rodriguez struggling and dealing with a strained finger, the Nationals activated Lidge sooner than planned Thursday.

Lidge is available to pitch tonight against the Red Sox.

"I know we cut short his rehab because of Henry Rodriguez, and he was a little concerned I might use him yesterday after his second rehab game," Johnson said. "But I think he's fine. And I feel comfortable, no matter how I use him."

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people. Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis. Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one of his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to give in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in Majors at the age of 19, and has had a fluctuating career through six teams. All the while, he has kept a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? Ankiel is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written by sports writer Tim Brown. The book will be released on April 18.  

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