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Nats starters give relievers more than enough rest

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WASHINGTON -- One of the Nationals' greatest strengths can present a problem for some of the team's relief pitchers, but it's a good problem to have.

Washington's stellar starting rotation is capable of mowing down opposing lineups and eating innings in bunches. Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez combined for 13 scoreless innings against the Marlins in the first two games, leaving minimal work for the bullpen.

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Entering Thursday's series finale, three of the team's relievers had not yet appeared: right-handers Craig Stammen and Henry Rodriguez and lefty Zach Duke -- the bullpen's only southpaw.

"I can't say it's a bad thing we're doing that because we're winning, and they're pitching deep into games, which is what they want to do and actually what we want them to do," Stammen said. "The less I pitch, probably the better off our team is.

"I don't think about it too much. It's not too much of a challenge. I just have to be ready when my number gets called."

Stammen is one of manager Davey Johnson's first options for picking up multiple innings in relief. Last year he threw 88 1/3 innings across 59 appearances, going 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA.

Stammen hasn't pitched since his final Grapefruit League outing on March 28, a week ago. Since then, he has thrown some short side sessions and kept up with his conditioning, but said that's "no substitute for game action."

"You're kind of champing at the bit," he said. "You want to get out there and get the first game out of the way, because the first game is always different."

Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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