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Holden & Danny: Nat’s Pitching Coach Confirms Tyler Clippard Is Still The Closer, Discusses Strasburg’s Innings Limit

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(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Holden & Danny Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier
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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Washington Nationals Pitching Coach Steve McCatty joined Holden and Danny Thursday to discuss, what else, but Nats pitching.

Holden began the interview by asking if Jordan Zimmerman has taken “the next step” this season with his pitching, or if it has always been there.

“He started to do it last year when he had a pretty good run of what they would say ‘quality starts.’  He’s minimizing how many pitches he’s using, he’s going out and throwing his off-speed for strikes when he’s behind in the count and he’s using it that way and using it early in the count to get ahead with it; where in the past he’d just pound that fast ball no matter what and he wasn’t going to walk you,” McCatty said. “So has he taken a step? Absolutely. He’s thrown the ball great, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

But Holden still wanted to know just how good Zimmerman can be.

“It’s hard to say how good anybody can be. He’s got great stuff. It’s just seeing what the record shows after a period of time. He can be very good,” McCatty said. “Am I gonna say every year he’s going to be 15 games above .500? I can’t tell you that. But I think he’s got an awful good chance to be a top-of-the-line guy.”

Zimmerman has a 2.35 ERA this season with 122.1 innings pitched, according to ESPN.com.

With the Nationals leading the NL East ahead of the Atlanta Braves by four games, Danny asked how the Nats pitching will adjust during the rest of the season now that “the secrets are out” in terms of team’s pitching styles and techniques.

“As a pitcher, you watch and you don’t wanna just change because I threw him this pitch before, I threw him this pitch last week, and he knows I might throw it again. As long as you execute what you do, it’s up to them to make a change to you,” McCatty said. “You just keep going, you know what they’re tendencies are, you know what the situation of the game is and that’s how you pitch. I’m not one of these guys that believe in tricking everybody. You just go out there and throw the ball over the plate and make quality pitches.”

Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo told ESPN Wednesday that he alone will decide when Strasburg’s 2012 season will end, which is not necessarily at the 160-inning mark that has been frequently talked about.

Strasburg underwent reconstructive elbow tendon surgery toward the end of his 2010 rookie season. He returned toward the end of last season, and pitched in only 44 combined innings that included minor league rehabilitation outings.

McCatty told Holden and Danny that during spring training he told the prized pitcher “if there is an innings limit, that’s the way it is; there’s nothing you can do or say to change it if Mike or Davey decide that that’s what they wanna do … He’s a team guy and he certainly understands.”

The Nationals activated reliever Drew Storen from the disabled list Thursday. Storen had surgery in April to remove bone chips from his right elbow and had yet to pitch this season.

“Obviously, Drew’s got outstanding stuff; what 42, 43 saves last year. When he gets back, obviously you wanna give him some situations that aren’t so heavy where it would be at the end of the game, closing types – but that’s Davey’s decision,” McCatty said. “I imagine at first, when he gets back the situation would be a softer landing to get out there the 7th or 8th inning depending on the situation. But it also depends on what Davey wants to do on that particular day.”

“For right now, [Tyler Clippard] is doing the closing; and we’ll see how Drew when he gets out there and gets his feet wet a little bit, and a little further down the road that’ll be a decision that Davey makes on what he wants to do … Naturally, you’d like to have one guy that’s going to be your closer, but for right now he’s going to come in ideally the 7th or 8th inning.”

Clippard has a 2.83 ERA this season for 41.1 innings pitched, according to ESPN.com.

Wrapping up the interview, Danny asked how the organization is keeping the pitchers on their pace and staying with the plan that has lead to the team being in the playoff race.

“For the pitchers, it’s the same plan that we’ve talked about, it’s pitch by pitch, hitter by hitter, game by game – that’s all you can worry about. You start getting focused on what’s going to happen a week down the road or tomorrow or three hitters away and you lose focus of what you’re doing right now; that causes problems,” McCatty said. “You gotta have a strong mindset and be you gotta be willing to forget about everything else and just be devoted to that one single pitch that you’re gonna make and the next pitch that you’re going to make.”

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