WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' relievers are off to a slow start, allowing 20 runs in 21 2/3 innings entering Wednesday's action against the White Sox. Ryan Mattheus and Drew Storen are the only pitchers in the bullpen with a 3.00 ERA or lower. After seven games last year, the relievers allowed just six runs in 20 1/3 innings.
The bullpen allowed six runs in Tuesday's series-opening win against the White Sox, with Tyler Clippard allowing a three-run home run to Paul Konerko, and closer Rafael Soriano allowing a two-run shot to Alex Rios.
But pitching coach Steve McCatty isn't worried about the bullpen and feels it will get its act together soon. All that matters to McCatty at this point is that the Nationals are winning. The team is 5-2 entering Wednesday's action and beat the White Sox, 8-7, on Tuesday, despite the bullpen's struggles.
"Yesterday was two mistakes, and we didn't hit our spots -- fastball in and a slider away," McCatty said. "Do I have any concerns? No. Could they do better? Sure, but it's still early. Clip didn't give up a run all spring, so something is going to happen. Sori has a little tweak in his leg, and that is not an excuse, but it was a pitch we knew you can't throw that kind of mistake -- breaking ball that spins over the plate. He left it in there.
"Everybody is looking at the first seven games that we are playing. Could we be sharper? Sure. Is there a reason to doubt it? No. There is going to be stretches during the season where everybody is going to have their moments where everything is clicking together. But fortunately, the offense has been good enough that we are still able to get the wins."
McCatty said he doesn't have any concerns about anyone in the bullpen, including Henry Rodriguez, who is coming off elbow problems. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed two runs and only recorded one out Friday against the Reds, but recovered to throw a quick scoreless inning two days later.
"Henry has done better. His arm is feeling fine," McCatty said. "With him, every once in a while, he has a tendency to overthrow. We know that. But the next time out [against the Reds] he threw nine pitches. So it's an ongoing thing with him. He is still a young kid and learning what he needs to do every time. Am I concerned about him? No. He has unbelievable stuff. He has to learn how to harness it."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.