NEW YORK — Earlier this week, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said that the team was going to “be careful” with Rule 5 reliever Brian Broderick, who’d struggled in his major league debut in the Nationals’ series finale loss to the Braves last Sunday.
Being careful implied that the Nationals weren’t going to bring Broderick into close situations immediately — that they were going to let him shake out his nerves at the major league level in games where the team was either significantly ahead or behind.
But with Riggleman wanting to avoid using Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Chad Gaudin and Todd Coffey — all of whom pitched on Friday and, especially in the case of Clippard and Storen, have been asked a lot of in the season’s first seven games — Broderick found himself trotting in from the bullpen with a runner on third and one out in a one-run ballgame.
“I was trying to stay away from four guys tonight,” Riggleman said. “You don’t get in a situation that often when you’re doing that, but we were trying to stay away from Storen, Clippard, Gaudin and Coffey, all of them.”
The second time out went better than the first for the right-hander, who induced ground balls from David Murphy and Mike Nickeas that both got through the left side of the infield. Broderick then got out of the seventh inning unscathed despite allowing a walk but allowed the first three batters of the eighth inning to reach, allowing a single and hitting two batters before giving way to Doug Slaten.
“I felt a lot better (than the first outing),” Broderick said. “I went out there and was trying to attack the hitters and not be afraid. I was going right after guys, trying to get ahead and things were working out. A few balls found some holes, a few balls got away and I hit some guys. Other than that I felt really good.”
Broderick was better this time out, though his debut was so rough that there was plenty of room for improvement. But the mere fact that the Nationals were forced to go to him in almost exactly the type of situation they were trying to avoid speaks to the amount they’ve had to rely on a few relievers early this season.
Four of the Nationals relievers are in the top 10 most-used in the National League and specifically Clippard and Storen have been needed in high-pressure situations quite often already. Clippard was eighth in the NL last season with 78 appearances and while he insists he pitches more effectively the more often he’s used, it would most likely behoove the Nationals not to wear out their best relievers this early in the season.