By Evan Brunell
The Nationals have elevated Henry Rodriguez into a setup role, dropping once-closer Sean Burnett into a middle relief capacity.
Burnett, who battled Drew Storen for the closer's job all season before recently losing it outright, will now be used to face tough left-handers and soak up innings in middle relief while Henry Rodriguez will join Tyler Clippard in high-leverage outings.
“To cut to the chase, I’ve got a guy throwing 100 miles an hour down there,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman told the Washington Post. “If I can pitch him in the eighth inning, he’s going to pitch. They’re going to have to beat him instead of my left-hander. [Right-handed batters], they’re going to thank me for not bringing Rodriguez in.”
Rodriguez, acquired from the Athletics in the offseason, has impressed during his short time in Washington. After missing the start of the year due to arm problems, Rodriguez has tossed 10 2/3 innings, whiffing 16. Despite adding seven walks, he's shown enough so far that Riggleman sees the potential of Rodriguez in the late innings.
Riggleman dropped Rodriguez, 24, into a one-out situation in the eighth inning with no one on base Tuesday. Rodriguez ended up blowing his chance as he gave up a single and a walk preceding a two-run hit that kissed the chalk, barely fair. However, those circumstances, tied in with Rodriguez's potential, will keep him in the eighth inning moving forward.
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