PHOENIX — There’s already been an awful lot written about Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, the Nationals rep at this year’s All-Star game and a deserving one, but while I’m here, may as well get my two cents in.
If you’re looking for words on Clippard, I wrote about 1,500 of them in this feature. If you’re at all interested in the journey that has brought Clippard to this place in his life and this success in his career — a road that included being kicked off his high school team, being traded, switched from a starter to a reliever and a rise to one of the preeminent set-up men in baseball, I’d suggest you check it out.
Clippard seemed at ease today inside a ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore resort among some of the biggest names the National League has to offer. While most of the questions Clippard fielded revolved around his personal experience and how he got the point of having the words All-Star in front of his name, he did talk a little bit about the Nationals and his role in the organization.
Clippard has become one of the best set-up men in the league and the relationship he has with closer Drew Storen is a big part of that. There is an understanding and an acceptance of their roles that plays into why they work so well as, what Clippard called, a “one-two punch.”
But, that doesn’t mean Clippard doesn’t think he could close:”The one-two punch that me and Drew have is a special thing in this game where not a lot of teams have that. I think it’s very important to have a comfort level with those roles and with everyone being content with those roles. Right now that’s what we have in Washington.
“Yeah, I think I could close, absolutely. I definitely do. I don’t think I should be out on the mound doing what I do if I didn’t think that — but that’s a healthy thought. I don’t want to say that I should be a closer or anything because I’m happy with contributing the way I am with the Nationals but if something else happens that’s the way it goes.”
Aside from his role in the Nationals .500 first half, Clippard admitted that the tenor on the team heading into the second half is that .500 isn’t near good enough and there’s no need to wait to win.
“We have high expectations of ourselves and we are planning on doing some good things in the second half,” Clippard said. “Regardless of how well we do or how bad we do, we’ve made tremendous strides. Moving forward, that’s all we want to do. Everyone’s content with that but there’s still work to be done.
“I think if you look around the clubhouse and see the amount of talent that we have — and I think a lot of the clubs we play against can tell you that too — that we’re going to be right there. Everyone has that mindset, especially the players in the locker room, that we’re winning right now.
“Screw the 2012 talk and the 2013 talk and the (Stephen) Strasburg talk. We’re all ready in there. We’re all competitive. We’re all ready to win now.”
– Brad Peacock pitched a perfect inning Sunday in the MLB Futures Game in Phoenix and he was on a 6 a.m. flight back to the east coast Monday morning, hustling to make an appearance at the Eastern League All-Star Game. He will not pitch in the game but turns out that will be the last Double-A anything Peacock will be participating. He’ll be promoted to Triple-A Syracuse when the teams return from the All-Star break and take Ross Detwiler’s spot in the Chiefs’ rotation.
Peacock is one of the most promising pitching prospects in the Nationals organization and improved deception has helped him to a 10-2 season with a 2.01 ERA in 98 2/3 innings with Double-A Harrisburg. He’s struck out 129 and walked just 23. A promotion was a long time coming and only improves a Syracuse rotation that already includes Triple-A All-Star Tom Milone and Brad Meyers, though Meyers is currently on the minor league disabled list with a minor issue.
“It’s good to see my hard work paying off,” Peacock said Sunday before his promotion was formally announced. “I never had 10 wins before and now I have 10 wins. Just try to do the same thing (in the second half).”
If he does, he’ll be prime for a call-up to the major league team in September or perhaps even earlier if the need arises. Not bad for a former 41st-round draft pick.
– One other minor league note, Triple-A infielder Matt Antonelli was a late addition to the Triple-A All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah, this week hopping on a flight out there with left-hander Tom Milone to represent the Chiefs. Antonelli, a former first-round pick by the San Diego Padres, was signed by the Nationals as a minor league free agent this offseason — his first fully healthy in a while — and has shown much of the promise that earned him a big league call-up in September, 2008 with San Diego.
Antonelli’s hit .308 with a .395 on-base percentage in 45 games with Syracuse this season after staying at extended spring training for a while to rest a sore hamstring, making a pit-stop in Double-A Harrisburg and finally ending up in Syracuse.