05/23/12 12:36 AM ET
Nationals remove Rodriguez from closer role
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Tyler Clippard got the first crack at it, converting a perfect ninth inning in a 5-2 win over the Phillies.
The change came a day after Rodriguez nearly suffered his fourth blown save this year during a 2-1 win at Citizens Bank Park. It also didn't help that Rodriguez entered the day with seven earned runs in his previous eight innings.
Rodriguez will now be in a less stressful role, which could mean anything from pitching in the middle innings or working as a setup man.
"Henry has been great and not so great," Johnson said. "He might be trying too hard and I will probably change his role and put him in a less demanding role -- trying to get him back on track.
"As far as who my closer is going to be, it's going to be what I usually do in a ballgame. It will be who is fresh, where I like the matchups better."
With Rodriguez out, there is a good chance that Clippard, Craig Stammen and Sean Burnett will split time in the ninth inning.
Clippard, who has been the one of the best relievers over the last three-plus seasons, expressed to the team at the end of last year that he could close games. He even told his close friend Drew Storen that he would like to be given a chance to be a ninth-inning guy.
Johnson said that Clippard told pitching coach Steve McCatty on Tuesday that he wanted a chance to close. Clippard fanned a batter later in the day while earning his first save of the year and second of his career.
"There was a lot more adrenaline, a lot more nervousness, but it was a good feeling," he said. "I haven't had that in a while. So it was a lot of fun tonight."
Zimmerman sits because of sore shoulder
PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was scratched from the lineup on Tuesday prior to a 5-2 win over the Phillies because of a sore right shoulder, the same ailment that forced him to the disabled list late last month. He is listed as day to day but is expected to play against Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Zimmerman, who went 0-for-4 in Monday's game against the Phillies, took batting practice prior to Tuesday's game, but manager Davey Johnson decided that Zimmerman wasn't going to play. Johnson acknowledged that the conversation between the two got heated. Zimmerman felt he was healthy enough to play.
"He wanted to play," Johnson said. "I said, 'You are not playing. ... I give you off today, play tomorrow, we are going to nip that thing in the bud. You are too valuable to me. ... Believe me, I want you in there.' It was bothering him yesterday, it was bothering him today. I said, 'No way. I'll lose this battle, but I don't want to lose the war.'"
Zimmerman said the shoulder injury is not serious. He called it "general soreness."
"I took BP, I did everything I usually do today to play a game. Davey just wouldn't let me play. He is the boss, I guess," Zimmerman said.
Chad Tracy replaced Zimmerman, playing third base, batting third and going 0-for-4.
Zimmerman finished the day hitting .248, with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
Move to fifth appears to have helped Desmond
PHILADELPHIA -- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond finished Tuesday 6-for-16 (.375) with two homers and six RBIs since he was put in the fifth spot in the lineup on Saturday.
Desmond, who homered in a 5-2 win over the Phillies, said it helps that he is surrounded by good hitters, and that is the reason he didn't have to make adjustments when he made the switch from hitting leadoff.
"If the ball is in [the strike zone], it's good enough for me," Desmond said. "I'm not too picky. I'm just trying to put the barrel on the ball, with no real secret to my approach. I'm trying to get a pitch [I can hit]."
Desmond's eighth homer put him two off his career high, which he set in 2010.
Asked what he is doing differently at the plate, Desmond said, "I'm not trying to do anything differently. It's the same swing. I'm just getting more balls up in the air, I guess. There is no real secret to it. I'm not trying to do it. They are accidents."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.