- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Nationals’ bullpen has been a hot commodity this season. Adding relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez to the mix could mean an increase in heat.

Rodriguez was activated from the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, before the Nats’ game against the New York Mets. The hard-throwing righty missed the first 22 games this season with right-shoulder inflammation, although manager Jim Riggleman said there were additional reasons for the delayed debut.

“The issues in spring training were reporting a little late and getting a little out of synch,” Riggleman said. “That took him a little while to get back into his game. Then he had some aggravation with his neck and that set him back.”

Washington’s relief corps has helped keep the team in just about every game. Tyler Clippard is tied for second in the National League in holds (six) and 10th in relief innings pitched (14 1/3); only four of his 17 inherited base runners have scored. Drew Storen is 3-for-3 in save opportunities with two holds. Chad Gaudin has recorded two holds and allowed just one of seven inherited runners to score.

But Gaudin, a righty, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with right-shoulder inflammation, creating an opening in the bullpen. Rodriguez, 24, had posted a 0.73 ERA and .190 batting average against in nine games as he rehabbed with Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg.

“Henry has done good in Syracuse,” Riggleman said. “He’s gotten a little better each time out. He’s a strong, durable guy who’s been able to throw multiple innings.”

Rodriguez, acquired from Oakland last winter for outfielder Josh Willingham, has a fastball that has clocked in as high as 103.8 mph. But control has been an issue. He walked three of the five batters he faced in his spring-training debut this year. For his career, he has a 1-0 record and 4.26 ERA in 32 appearances (all in relief).

“We just feel like right now he’s ready to go,” Riggleman said. “He’s throwing consistent strikes, and he’s got a great arm. We hope to utilize him out there as much as we can to take the load off Clip and Storen a little bit.”

NOTES: Riggleman said shortstop Ian Desmond, who left the team Tuesday on paternity leave, will return on Thursday for the series finale against the Mets. Desmond and his wife, Chelsey, celebrated the birth of their first child, Grayson Wesley Desmond.

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