- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2015

VIERA, Fla. — With the departure of Tyler Clippard, manager Matt Williams said the Nationals could match up in the eighth inning this season depending on the opposing lineup, previous workload and other factors.

Last season, Clippard pitched the eighth and Rafael Soriano or Drew Storen pitched the ninth. The roles were consistent and predictable. Though Williams believes it’s important for relievers to have specific roles in the bullpen, he also values flexibility in certain situations.

“That may be a match-up situation, depending on the game, depending on the team, depending on volume prior, all of those things come into play,” Williams said Tuesday. “We’ll look at that as we get deeper into spring, get the guys into some of those situations where we’re matching up potentially in the eighth inning to get the ball to the ninth inning and close it out hopefully.”

Right-hander Casey Janssen and left-hander Matt Thornton, two veterans with years of previous late-game experience, are among those who could fill that setup role. But nothing is set in stone yet.

“As of right now, I know Drew’s the closer. Casey, myself, Aaron Barrett, [Craig Stammen], Jerry [Blevins] will be doing whatever in between there,” Thornton said late last week. “Being a lefty, I think they want me as more of a flexible person, anywhere from the sixth to the eighth. And I’m fine with that. I’m over having a role in the bullpen. I just want to help.”

Williams said one of the things that makes Clippard unique is that he is equally effective against both righties and lefties. That was one reason why it was so easy for Williams to slot him into that eighth-inning role.

In that vein, Williams said he does not have a specific left-handed/right-handed preference for the bullpen.

“It’s not about how many lefties we have; it’s about the ability of our righties to get lefties out, too,” Williams said. “So we’ll evaluate as we get through and determine how many left-handed pitchers we want to take with us. That’ll be an educated decision. That’ll be a decision that is talked about quite frequently, and as we get to the end of spring training, we’ll know.”

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