Apr 27, 2010, 4:27 AM EDT
CHICAGO — Sitting inside his cramped office at Wrigley Field late Monday afternoon, Jim Riggleman talked about the need for some of his relief pitchers not named Matt Capps or Tyler Clippard to start coming through in key situations.
"Tonight would be a great night for that to happen," the Nationals manager said.
Some five hours later, as Brian Bruney was trudging off the mound after issuing a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning of a 4-3 loss to the Cubs, Riggleman could only sigh and wonder what might have been.
Three weeks into this already-surprising season, the Nationals have gotten plenty of top-notch performances. Livan Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez have been fantastic. Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman (when he plays) have been solid. Capps and Clippard have been virtually unhittable.
But if the Nats are serious about sustaining their early season momentum and actually keeping themselves on the fringe of contention, they're going to have to get contributions from a lot more players. And that begins in a bullpen that boasts far too few sure things at the moment.
Someone else has got to step up and share the load with Capps and Clippard. Sean Burnett took a step in the right direction tonight in retiring both batters he faced. Tyler Walker also did his part, retiring four of five batters in a tie game.
But Bruney is the guy who's supposed to be counted upon in these situations. The Nationals acquired the 28-year-old right-hander from the Yankees in December and then paid him $1.5 million to be their primary setup man. So what have they received so far for their investment? 10 shaky relief appearances that have resulted in sixRead more »
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