Why mess with what’s working? Tyler Clippard is 32-for-35 saving games since taking over as the Nationals’ closer in late May. However, manager Davey Johnson announced Friday that he’d have Clippard and Drew Storen share save opportunities going forward.
“The fact is, I told [pitching coach Steve McCatty] that I have confidence in both of them closing,” Johnson said. “And depending on the rest situation, or depending on what I think is the matchup, either one of them could be going eighth, the other one going ninth.”
Storen saved 43 games for the Nationals last year and was slated to keep the job this season, but he missed the first half because of elbow problems. Since returning on July 19, he has a 2.59 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. He picked up his third save in three opportunities on Thursday.
Clippard, meanwhile, has struggled some of late, giving up runs in four of his last seven appearances. He hasn’t taken any blown saves during that span, but he has lost twice. His season ERA stands at 3.22.
Given than Storen and Clippard are both right-handers and there’s no platoon advantage to be gained by playing matchups, sticking with the status quo would seem to make sense here. Alternatively, if they think Storen is the better bet of the two, just make him the closer. It’s probably better that both pitchers actually know their roles than that they spend the sixth and seventh innings wondering who is going to get the call first.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.