After the Nationals traded reliever Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks on July 22, manager Manny Acta named Joel Hanrahan his new closer. Hanrahan ended up saving nine games in 12 save opportunities.
Hanrahan will now get a chance to save games for Washington for a full season. He made his first appearance of the season on Tuesday and pitched one shutout inning in an 8-3 loss to the Marlins. Hanrahan hopes it doesn't take long before he gets his first save opportunity.
"It's tough when you are losing games, but you have to go out there and get your work in," Hanrahan said. "You have to go with the mentality that, even if you are down three runs, you have to treat it like it's a save situation, put up a zero and keep the team in the game."
Hanrahan never thought he would be a closer. In his first eight years in professional baseball, Hanrahan was a starting pitcher. Hanrahan struggled to get past the fifth inning in his last season in the role, so after talking it over with a friend who was into baseball stats, Acta decided that the bullpen was best for Hanrahan for 2008. Hanrahan struck out 93 batters in 84 games and held opponents to a .233 batting average.
"I had planned to be a starter my whole career," Hanrahan said. "But I'm happy where I'm at. I'm happy about the position that I'm in."
WSH: RHP Daniel Cabrera (8-10, 5.25 ERA in 2008)
It will be interesting to see how Cabrera handles the bat in his Nationals debut. Learning how to swing the bat and bunt the ball are two reasons Cabrera didn't represent the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Prior to this season, Cabrera acknowledged that he was scared to swing the bat in fear he would get hit by the baseball. It also didn't help that he played in the American League. When he was with the Orioles, Cabrera only swung the bat when Baltimore played National League teams in Interleague Play. Now, Cabrera is in the NL, and he must learn how to do the little things with the bat.
FLA: RHP Chris Volstad (6-4, 2.88 ERA in 2008)
The 22-year-old Volstad is the youngest in a youthful rotation. A former first-round pick, Volstad became a fixture in the rotation in 2008, making 14 starts after being called up in July. This will be his first time facing the Nationals. In his first Major League start, he nearly went the distance, working 8 2/3 innings against the Dodgers.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been held hitless in nine at-bats. ... Nationals starters have given up 14 runs in six innings. ... First baseman Nick Johnson is 4-for-8 in the first two games. ... The Nationals are 3-16 against the Marlins since the 2008 season began.
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Friday: Nationals (Shairon Martis, 1-3, 5.66 ERA in 2008) at Braves (Derek Lowe, 1-0, 0.00 ERA), 7:30 p.m. ET
Saturday: Nationals (John Lannan, 0-1, 18.00 ERA) at Braves (Kenshin Kawakami, Major League debut), 7:00 p.m. ET
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.