WASHINGTON -- The Nationals decided on Saturday afternoon to make right-hander Mike MacDougal their closer and slot right-hander Joel Hanrahan in a middle-relief role.
It marks the second time this season that Hanrahan has lost his closer's job. The first occurred on April 28, a day after he gave up a game-winning grand slam to Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez.
Hanrahan got the role back in mid-May, but the inconsistency remained. In fact, he has given up six runs in his past three innings entering Saturday.
Manager Manny Acta was often frustrated with Hanrahan relying too much on his slider instead of his 95-mph fastball. Some in the organization believe that Hanrahan doesn't have enough movement on his fastball to get people out on a consistent basis. It appears unlikely that he will get his job back.
"We are going to have him relax and pitch in the middle of the game in order to get his confidence back," Acta said. "I spoke to him and told him I have a lot of faith in him, and I have proved that. But right now, he hasn't been consistent enough to be pitching back there. He took it very well."
Hanrahan declined to give details about his demotion, but said, "Nothing for you. I've been through it before. There is your line. Same thing."
As for MacDougal, he will become a closer for the first time since the 2005 season, when he was a member of the Royals.
"I'm excited. I'm glad to do it. Hopefully it will be for a while," MacDougal said. "It's has been a while since I did it and I look forward to doing it again."
The Nationals love MacDougal's 98-mph fastball and were pleased with the way he handled Mets pinch-hitter Gary Sheffield in the seventh inning on Friday. MacDougal threw nothing but his four-seam fastball and struck out Sheffield on three pitches.
"He has thrown the ball well for us. We are going to give him an opportunity to pitch at the end of the game," Acta said. "He has some nasty stuff. He has that ball sinking in the mid-90s. He has the slider and the changeup. If he stays consistent in the strike zone, it very tough to hit this guy. I think we saw a very small sample last night. He has the experience in the past. We are going to give him the opportunity to do it."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.