Jun 24, 2015, 7:29 PM EDT
The Nationals’ bullpen has been through its fair share of changes this season, largely due to injuries up and down their pitching staff. Those circumstances have forced the Nats to at times call on rookies to come up and fill in. They have also relied heavily on second-year pros such as Aaron Barrett – who is also now injured – and Blake Treinen.
Lately, though, there has been an infusion of veteran experience with the addition of right-handers Casey Janssen and David Carpenter. Janssen came off the disabled list in late May after recovering from right shoulder tendinitis, while Carpenter joined the Nationals on June 12 after coming over in a trade with the New York Yankees.
Both veterans have been around the block and have combined to pitch 13 scoreless outings (11.1 IP) for the Nationals in the month of June. They have helped solidify a bullpen that is still showing the effects of Craig Stammen’s season-ending injury.
“I think when experience helps in the bullpen is when we start to struggle and to stop it at maybe one bad game, not allow it to go to three or maybe four bad games,” Janssen said. “Younger guys can let it carry over more often. Obviously it’s our job down there to not let that happen. I just think with experience everyone’s failed, unfortunately. It’s a part of the game. Probably going to fail again, unfortunately. It’s gonna happen, it’s how we react to it.”
“[Their experience] helps a lot. They know what they’re doing out there,” Danny Espinosa said. “They know how they want to pitch and how they want to approach hitters. They’re going to pitch to their strengths. When you have guys like that in the bullpen that know what they can do and know how to get guys out, not necessarily pitching to their weakness but to their strengths, that’s what you want.”
Janssen played with Carpenter briefly in 2012 when both were with the Toronto Blue Jays. He felt Carpenter would be a good addition once he saw the right-hander get designated for assignment by the Yankees.
“When I saw that he got designated, just in my head I thought what a good fit he could be here before they got him. I just knew the person and the player,” Janssen said. “Valuable arm, power arm that can pitch late innings in games. One that I think everyone feels pretty comfortable when he comes in.”
Carpenter has also impressed others on the Nats.
“Great teammate,” Denard Span said. “Two weeks he’s been here he’s blended in really well. He’s a bulldog on the mound. He was tough to go against when he was Atlanta, and I’m just happy that he’s on our team. Happy that the Yankees didn’t want him and we’ll take him.”
With Janssen and Carpenter in store, and with Tanner Roark back in the bullpen with the returns of Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister, the Nats’ pitching staff is starting to look much more formidable than it did a few weeks ago. Now manager Matt Williams can start locking down more defined roles in his bullpen.
“Other than the household names, Tanner has been as valuable as anyone on this team. What he did in the rotation was great. What he’s been able to do in the bullpen and pitch in the many different roles whether it’s long or short relief, he’s been a very valuable piece for us,” Janssen explained.
“I think with him coming back, with Carpenter in there, guys are settling in. The starters are settling in. That’s where as a bullpen we’re going to find our way and really start to click. Now Matt’s able to mix and match with arms with everyone is as fresh as they can be. Lots of times that’s when good bullpens start to roll.”
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