By John Solomon
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Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Sadly, the Nation's Capital has another entry to add to its sports pantheon otherwise known as the Gus Frerotte Concrete Wall of Shame.
Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus has broken his pitching hand punching a locker in frustration following a rocky outing.
Sunday was the latest example of how the Nationals' bullpen may be a bit off-kilter as they pass the quarter mark of the 2013 season. The personnel is exactly the same as it was when the Nationals opened the season, but the way they've been used hasn't always been consistent — and neither has the performance.
"I met a guy today who had been through 49 surgeries," said Chad Tracy. "I've been through four of five myself, just to imagine a guy going through almost 50 surgeries, to see he was still a driven, confident, leader of a man really touched me."
It didn't take Mattheus long to look around the Nationals' clubhouse this spring and realize that, of the relievers on the team's 40-man roster, there is precisely one who throws with his left hand: Zach Duke.
The goal this year is simple, as manager Davey Johnson has already laid out as plain as can be: World Series or bust. Here are five storylines to watch as the Nationals go through six weeks of preparation for the 2013 season.
One pitcher warming up in the Washington Nationals' bullpen Thursday afternoon has spent a lot of time there this season, and it wouldn't have been surprising to see Craig Stammen enter Game 4 despite plenty of work already in this National League Division Series.
A late-night phone call summoned the playoff barber.
In the corner of the press box stood a familiar face. It was the face of a man brought to the brink of tears in June 2011 as he said his farewell to the Washington Nationals. The face of a man who'd helped steward the Washington Nationals through a turbulent time — from Jim Riggleman to Davey Johnson — in one wild weekend in Chicago.
A few hours before he'd start the first major league playoff game of his life, Ian Desmond leaned on the dugout railing and pondered the question of how much experience mattered in the postseason. The Washington Nationals, of course, have very little. And the reigning 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals are rich with it.
When a pitcher's control deserts him, the 18-foot diameter of the mound transforms into a lonely island. Gio Gonzalez understands the feeling.
The Nationals tell us they've started a new tradition here, one of winning. It is difficult to argue with the results. They've won enough to make the playoffs. They hope it isn't another 79 years before it happens again.
The Washington Nationals paid a heavy price for Gio Gonzalez last winter, shipping four well-regarded players to Oakland to obtain the left-hander and immediately signing him to a lucrative contract extension.
Ryan Mattheus kept his eyes low, his words muffled. He berated himself. He called his inability to throw strikes in the decisive eighth inning Saturday night "inexcusable" and searched for the reason why his command deserted him.
Maybe it was the two Tommy John surgeries. Or the nine years Christian Garcia spent traversing the minor leagues, either developing or rehabbing. But the Washington Nationals right-hander's major league career has lasted just more than a week, and pitching in a one-run game in the eighth inning of a pennant race doesn't faze him.
"That's kind of what's so embarrassing about it," Mattheus said. "It's absolutely something I can control. It's not like I hurt myself out on the field. I've got to do a better job with that."
"It's pretty embarrassing. It's a tough one to swallow," Mattheus told Amanda Comak of The Times and Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post on Monday. "I felt like I let the other 24 guys down on this team. Let the whole Washington Nationals organization down by doing something pretty stupid. It's pretty tough right now."