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In Mattheus, the Nationals have someone with three pitches who many feel could be a closer. “He’s got closer stuff, no doubt,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said.

Unless a trade or a cut clears up space in their projected bullpen he may be taking that stuff to Triple-A Syracuse to open the year — the cruel reality of what Johnson continues to call “the tough part of spring.”

“He already proved that he belonged,” said left-hander Ross Detwiler, Mattheus‘ roommate and a player familiar with Mattheus‘ situation. “Everybody knows that. It’s just a numbers game.”

The challenge has only made Mattheus more at peace with himself and his path to this point.

“I’d love to be Stephen Strasburg or Drew Storen, in their situation, where you get to the big leagues and lock down a job really early,” Mattheus said. “Those were the ideas I had when I first signed. … But it doesn’t always happen that way.