Nats' bullpen is tight-knit group on and off field

Nats' bullpen is tight-knit group on and off field

Nats' bullpen is tight-knit group on and off field
WASHINGTON -- All you have to do is observe the Nationals' bullpen off the field to know how good they are on it.

Washington has arguably the best pitching staff in baseball -- entering Friday, the club's 3.21 ERA was tops in the big leagues -- and much of that credit has gone to the rotation. The starters have been superb, but so have the relievers.

The seven-man bullpen contained five members working with ERAs below 2.00 heading into the series opener against Colorado: left-handers Sean Burnett (1.47) and Michael Gonzalez (1.64); and right-handers Tyler Clippard (1.78), Ryan Mattheus (1.95) and Craig Stammen (1.74).

"We've got a lot of guys with the same interests, of the same age, and we've all played together for a while," Stammen said. "Those three combinations kind of make us a little tighter. And we've got a group of good guys, too. Nobody's off in the corner doing anything. We all hang out together on and off the field.

"The old saying is the teams that are good off the field are good on the field. And I think that's true for our bullpen."

Manager Davey Johnson said it's gotten to the point where he'll look out to the bullpen with the idea of getting a reliever warmed up, and the pitchers already know what the call is going to be.

That's great chemistry, but he recognizes what it's also meant for the players' production from the mound.

"I think I like this bullpen as good as any I've ever had," Johnson said. "I think the depth in this bullpen and the versatility of this bullpen for different lineups is the best bullpen I've ever had."