Nats look to Lidge for veteran leadership

Although Brad Lidge has closed for the vast majority of his major league career, he'll step into a setup role with the Washington Nationals in 2012. The Nats are hoping the 35-year-old veteran can help provide leadership to a promising young bullpen.

The Nationals are quietly developing one of the strongest bullpens in baseball.

The signing of Brad Lidge last Thursday just gave Nationals manager Davey Johnson even more late-game cards to play. Lidge has been one of the best closers in baseball during his career, but the Nationals will put him in the set-up role with All-Star Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez in front of closer Drew Storen.

Clippard went 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 72 games last year as the main set-up guy for Storen, who ended up with 43 saves in his first full year as the team's closer.

Rodriguez also quietly broke through as another potential setup candidate. The right-hander went 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 59 games, featuring a fastball that often touches 100 mph.

In fact, Clippard and Storen can also flash plus fastballs. Lidge can still bring it also and has a nasty slider that's been his out pitch. But he's also got experience, and the younger guys like Clippard will learn from it.

"Brad is one of the more interesting teammates I've had," Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, a teammate of Lidge in Philadelphia, told the Washington Post. "Not your average athlete. Very intelligent on and off the field. He will bring culture to our clubhouse, along with his nasty slider. Good guy, glad we got him. He will be a perfect fit for our young talented bullpen."

Johnson's also now got some real good insurance if Storen has problems or needs a break. Any of the three set-up guys can step right in with two more still left to remain in the set-up role. That's big-time depth.

The Nationals already have one of the best young starting staffs in baseball, led by Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. This bullpen will support the starters and make the whole team better.

Nats Notes & Quotes

  • 1B Adam LaRoche doesn't have to worry about his job too much now that Prince Fielder went to the Tigers. It will be interesting to see how LaRoche handles all that went down this winter, with the courting of Fielder. LaRoche hit an abysmal .172 in an injury-shortened season -- he played just 43 games -- but remains one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball.

  • RF Bryce Harper earned the No. 2 spot on's recently-released Top 100 Prospects list. The first-round draft pick is just 19 years old but could be in the mix to play or even start this season. It would be a roll of the dice, but the Nationals have been talking about it in recent weeks.

  • -LHP Gio Gonzalez, recently acquired from the A's, will wear No. 47 this season. That's the same number he wore with A's, and the Nationals made the announcement at a press conference where he met the Washington media.

  • 3B Ryan Zimmerman is coming close to a hitting milestone. He needs just 53 more hits to reach 1,000 for his career. He would've had it last year if not for the abdomen injury/surgery that sidelined him for about two months.

  • RF/CF Jayson Werth will be trying for a fifth straight season of hitting at least 20 homers. Despite slumping for much of last season, Werth finished with 20 homers and 58 RBI.

  • By the Numbers: 223 – The number of saves newly signed Brad Lidge has in his career. He won't be a closer with the Nationals but could be used there if needed.

  • Quote to Note: "The doctors signed off on it. They say his shoulder is strong. He's healthy. He feels great. He's in great shape and coming in here with a great attitude and ready to prove to the baseball world he's got a lot left in the tank and he's ready to help us win games." -- GM Mike Rizzo, to, on the health of newly signed RHP Brad Lidge.

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