- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2014

VIERA, FLA. — Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard was all smiles in the locker room at Space Coast Stadium on Friday.

He was back in his element with all of the team’s pitchers and catchers reporting for duty and position players already trickling in. Clippard, fresh off a physical Friday morning, traded barbs with good friend Drew Storen, who occupies the stall next to him. He also chatted with reporters about Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whom he was teammates with briefly in New York and has trained with in the Tampa area in the offseason.

Clippard, though, had another reason to smile: Relief. He avoided arbitration with Washington earlier this week and won’t have to go through that often contentious process. Instead, the two sides agreed on a one-year, $5.875 million contract for 2014. It wasn’t as much as Clippard’s agent had asked for ($6.35 million). It was more than the Nats had offered ($4.5 million). But the two sides found common ground.

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“I’m happy, man. I was glad it got done,” Clippard said. “The process, it drug out. It was stressing me out. I didn’t even think I could stress out over stuff, and I was stressing out over it. I’m just glad it got resolved and both sides are happy with how everything went down. And now we can just focus on playing the game, and that’s all I care about.”

Clippard, 28, will again help anchor the back end of Washington’s bullpen. He has been a mainstay there since the middle of the 2009 season when, in desperation, general manager Mike Rizzo blew up his bullpen multiple times until he found competent relievers.

He got more than that in Clippard, who has appeared in 337 games with the Nats since being promoted from Triple-A Syracuse that season. A one-time starter with the Yankees, he’s become one of the game’s most consistent relievers. Last season Clippard had a 2.41 ERA. Given his numbers over the last four-and-a-half seasons, was a multi-year extension in the cards?

“During those types of situations, you try to feel out all the different scenarios so everyone can feel happy,” Clippard said. “Those discussions, they happened. I wasn’t on the phone. It was my agent and them, and whether or not there was some validity to that…We were just trying to get a deal done that both sides were happy with.”