A few national baseball writers referred to Brad Hand as the Nationals’ “new closer” upon reporting his contract agreement Sunday night. Don’t be so sure about that.
Though Hand certainly is going to end up closing some games for the Nats this season, that’s not technically the role the club has in mind for him. It’s safe to say Davey Martinez will use Hand whenever the matchup is in his favor, whether that comes in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning.
Some managers and some teams think it’s important to have a designated closer and firmly established roles for others in the bullpen. Martinez and the Nationals have proven they don’t view it that way.
When they were at their best late in the 2019 season, the Nats used both Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle to finish games. If the opponents’ best left-handed hitters were due up in the seventh or eighth, Doolittle would pitch those innings and Hudson would close. If the earlier matchups favored Hudson, he’d be the setup man while Doolittle closed.
It all worked out splendidly, and it was supposed to work the same way in 2020. Until Doolittle lost the life on his fastball and had to be moved into a lower-leverage role, then eventually to the injured list.
Hudson also endured through some struggles last summer, blowing five of his 15 save opportunities, a few of them in spectacular fashion.
So there’s some question…