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Clippard relishing new relief role with Nats

Clippard relishing new relief role

WASHINGTON -- Entering the 2009 season, Nationals right-hander Tyler Clippard was a starter. He showed he could have some success in the big leagues starting for the Yankees and Nationals.

Clippard went into Spring Training hoping that he would be part of the Nationals' rotation. It didn't work out that way, as he began the season at Triple-A Syracuse.

As Syracuse was breaking camp, then-pitching coach Steve McCatty, now the Nationals' pitching coach, informed Clippard that he was going to be a reliever. What was Clippard's reaction?

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"I was kind of shocked," Clippard said. "You have confidence at what you do. If you don't, you can't play at this level. I wasn't real happy with it. I felt I had the ability to be a starter. But those kinds of decisions aren't always up to you."

The shock wore off quickly. Thankful to have a job in Triple-A, Clippard became solid reliever for Syracuse. He gave up just four runs in 39 innings and earned a promotion to the Majors on June 24th.

Clippard's success with Syracuse has carried over to the big league level; he has a 2.13 ERA in nine games, along with 14 strikeouts.

His best game as a reliever came on Monday against the Mets, when Clippard pitched three shutout innings and struck out five batters. Today, he cherishes the role as a reliever.

"I changed my thought process, and it went from there," Clippard said. "I felt I had the repertoire to be fairly successful out of the 'pen. I'm a guy that needs to beat you with all of my pitches. Coming out of the bullpen with four pitches, I feel hitters don't see that a lot. I went on the mound knowing that, and I had a lot of confidence."

Pitching matchup
WSH: RHP Craig Stammen (2-5, 4.46 ERA)
Stammen posted his third straight quality start on Friday against the Cubs, but he absorbed the loss. A couple of mistakes did in the rookie right-hander. With two on and two out in the second inning, Stammen allowed Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano to belt a two-run double down the right-field line. An inning later, again with two outs, he threw a sinker that didn't sink to Aramis Ramirez, who deposited it into the bleachers for a solo home run. Stammen got through six innings, giving up those three runs and striking out two.

NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (7-5, 5.07 ERA)
Pelfrey was absolutely ineffective Friday night against the Braves. "I don't think I hit a spot all night," he said. "I feel bad for the people who had to play behind me. It was embarrassing." He lost for the third time in five starts, allowing the nine runs on nine hits, two of them home runs, and a walk. Pelfrey had allowed merely six home runs in his first 100 2/3 innings this season, then two in a three-batter sequence. He allowed three runs in two innings and four in another. Now, he faces the Nationals, a team he defeated once this season, when he allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings at Citi Field on April 25. He had a 2-3 record and 3.68 ERA against Washington before this season.

Tidbits
Since joining the Nationals on June 30th, Nyjer Morgan is 22-for-66 (.333) with 10 runs scored and a team-leading 10 stolen bases. ... Left-hander John Lannan has three consecutive home wins against the Mets this season. ... Wil Nieves is hitting .271 with 14 RBIs this season. Nick Johnson has a team-leading .414 on-base percentage.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• MASN HD

On radio
• WFED 1500, SBN 1390 (Español), ESPN 730 (Sp.)

Up next
• Thursday: Nationals (Jordan Zimmermann, 3-5, 4.63) vs. Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 10-6, 3.01), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Nationals (Garrett Mock, 0-3, 7.71) vs. Padres (Mat Latos, 0-1, 4.50), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Nationals (J.D. Martin, 0-1, 11.25) vs. Padres (Tim Stauffer, 0-1, 2.08), 7:05 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.

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