Sean Marshall, unlike Dusty Baker, is sure he can thrive as the Reds’ closer

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Dusty Baker may be unsure if Sean Marshall can step into the closer role for the injured Ryan Madson, but Marshall’s performance over the past two seasons suggests he’d be fantastic in the ninth inning and yesterday the left-hander made it clear that he’d “like the opportunity to pitch in that role.”

Part of Baker’s apparent hesitation comes from wondering if Marshall would do well pitching three or four days in a row, to which Marshall told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com: “I’ve definitely pitched at least three days in a row and been hot and ready to pitch a fourth game, too, and felt good. … I’m more than capable of doing it.”

He wants the role, he’s fine with the potential workload, and he’s got a 2.45 ERA, 169/42 K/BB ratio, and .222 opponents’ batting average in 145 innings since 2010.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉