Loverro: Na­tion­als patch holes with trio of re­lief pitch­ers.

Over­reach for Wi­eters helped cre­ate bullpen woes

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - THOM LOVERRO

Doolit­tle, Mad­son and Kint­zler — sounds like a law firm. “Hav­ing trou­ble sav­ing games? Are the sev­enth, eighth and ninth in­nings giv­ing you an ul­cer? Do you see Drew Storen in your night­mares? Call Doolit­tle, Mad­son and Kint­zler for all your bullpen needs.”

This is the trio the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als will be look­ing to, come Oc­to­ber, when — in a per­verted twist of the game — re­lief pitch­ers, not starters, take cen­ter stage and hold World Se­ries cham­pi­onships in the palms of their hands.

Sean Doolit­tle and Ryan Mad­son ar­rived two weeks ago, cour­tesy of the Oak­land Athletics, who sent the two re­liev­ers to Wash­ing­ton in ex­change for the man with the live arm and shaky knees, re­liever Blake Treinen and two mi­nor lea­guers. Then, as the base­ball trad­ing dead­line came to a close at 4 p.m. Mon­day, the Na­tion­als got Bran­don Kint­zler and his 28 saves

— 28 saves! — from the Min­nesota Twins in ex­change for mi­nor league pitcher Tyler Wat­son (I won­der if this ex­hausts the Tylers in the Na­tion­als or­ga­ni­za­tion) and the new monopoly money in base­ball, in­ter­na­tional bonus pool money.

Na­tion­als gen­eral man­ager Mike Rizzo did his job — and did it well. He got three qual­ity arms in the bullpen with­out sac­ri­fic­ing any ma­jor fu­ture parts of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Granted, none of them will strike fear into the hearts of op­pos­ing bat­ters.

How­ever, the sight of them walk­ing in from the bullpen also won’t strike fear in the hearts of Na­tion­als fans who have suf­fered through a sea­son of blown saves by the bat­tered and be­lea­guered bullpen.

Then again, Rizzo did his job — hand­cuffed by own­er­ship pay­roll lim­i­ta­tions —dur­ing the win­ter, when he put to­gether

a bullpen that, ac­cord­ing to ac­counts from the me­dia that cov­ers the team day in and day out, was go­ing to be a strength for this team.

But ei­ther through fail­ure or in­juries, guys like Treinen, Shawn Kel­ley, Sammy So­lis and oth­ers didn’t per­form as ex­pected — as per their track records (which is the mea­sure for de­ter­min­ing fu­ture per­for­mances).

Now, like then, it is up to the play­ers to per­form based on their track records. It is up to the firm of Doolit­tle, Mad­son and Kint­zler to win in the court of the bullpen.

It is a court where the Na­tion­als have not won many cases. It seems like they have been search­ing forever for the stud com­ing out of the pen — that pitcher who does strike fear in the hearts of op­pos­ing hit­ters.

Ev­ery­one thought it was Storen, but that was a mis­take from Day 1 — when they drafted him with the 10th pick of the first round in 2009. He was drafted too high, picked there only be­cause, af­ter the Lern­ers were faced with shelling out first-round money to Stephen Stras­burg, the No. 1 se­lec­tion in that draft, they wanted some­one drafted in that 10 spot that they knew they could sign. He wasn’t picked be­cause he was the 10th best player in the draft.

Storen, de­spite his early reg­u­lar sea­son suc­cess, failed to do his job in the most im­por­tant post­sea­son op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented to him in 2012 and 2014, and they have been search­ing for their bullpen sav­ior ever since — Rafael So­ri­ano, Jonathan Papel­bon, Mark Me­lan­con and now the firm of Doolit­tle, Mad­son and Kint­zler.

The search this win­ter came up short. Re­ports were that the Na­tion­als’ offer to Dodgers closer Ken­ley Jansen was ham­strung by de­ferred pay­ments. So here they are, with a brand new trio that they hope add up to one sav­ior.

If they don’t, the Na­tion­als can trace their bullpen woes back to Fe­bru­ary.

You still can’t ex­am­ine Wash­ing­ton’s bullpen con­struc­tion and dys­func­tion this sea­son with­out look­ing at Fe­bru­ary’s sign­ing, driven by sports agent Scott Bo­ras, of catcher Matt Wi­eters to a two-year, $21 mil­lion con­tract — money that was not avail­able when Mike Rizzo was build­ing his bullpen dur­ing the win­ter. Wi­eters is bat­ting .247 with seven home runs, and has been av­er­age at best be­hind the plate — cer­tainly not worth the money that could have been spent on the bullpen.

Now it is up to the firm of Doolit­tle, Mad­son and Kint­zler to see if they can over­come the dam­age of the part­ner­ship of Ted Lerner and Scott Bo­ras that took place be­fore this team ever played a game this sea­son.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

The Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ big off­sea­son ac­qui­si­tion was catcher Matt Wi­eters (cen­ter). The money used to sign Wi­eters could have been spent im­prov­ing the team’s bullpen which has strug­gled this sea­son with blown saves. The Na­tion­als im­proved their bullpen with moves prior to Mon­day’s trade dead­line.

Pitcher Sean Doolit­tle is one of a trio of re­liev­ers ac­quired by the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als re­cently in an ef­fort to boost a be­lea­guered bullpen that has suf­fered through a sea­son of blown saves.

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