Stammen's exit leaves Nats with six-man 'pen

Stammen's exit leaves Nats with six-man 'pen

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals optioned right-handed reliever Craig Stammen to Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday, creating room for Ryan Zimmerman and leaving manager Jim Riggleman with a six-man bullpen.

But Riggleman is not concerned with a lack of arms at his disposal. Rather, he is happy the Nationals are in a position to make this move.

"We just had this road trip where we had three relievers who never even got up in the bullpen and had to play catch. This is the most well rested we've been," he said. "You take that, plus an off-day yesterday, and you have three or four guys who haven't gotten any work. That's a good thing -- that means your starters are going deep in games."

The Nationals began the day with the seventh-best team ERA in the National League, a 3.59 mark, and sending Stammen to Syracuse rather than outfielders Roger Bernadina or Brian Bixler provides more options for pinch-hitting or running and defensive substitutions.

But the short bullpen may not be the long-term solution, and if Riggleman is forced to use multiple arms to get through a game, Stammen or another reliever could return.

"If we run into a situation here where we go to the bullpen a little heavy, we can get one here tomorrow," Riggleman said. "We're just a phone call away from having another pitcher here."