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Nats may rotate closer role to keep arms healthy

Club has luxury in Doolittle, Madson, Kintzler; Roark off his game Sunday; Cole scratched with virus
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals have three strong, viable options out of the bullpen to close games in the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. It will be a luxury for first-year manager Dave Martinez to have those arms -- each with experience closing -- at the end of the game.

While Doolittle will be the primary closer, Martinez also wants to ensure all three relievers remain healthy, which means he could try to stagger his usage of those three relievers at times during the regular season.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals have three strong, viable options out of the bullpen to close games in the trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. It will be a luxury for first-year manager Dave Martinez to have those arms -- each with experience closing -- at the end of the game.

While Doolittle will be the primary closer, Martinez also wants to ensure all three relievers remain healthy, which means he could try to stagger his usage of those three relievers at times during the regular season.

View Full Game Coverage

"The one thing for sure is we're going to take care of those guys," Martinez said. "We're not going to burn them out. It's a long season, so all three of them know that, on any given day, they might be asked to close out a game."

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Martinez also mentioned right-hander Joaquin Benoit as another pitcher who could factor into high-leverage situations.

Two from the prized trio tossed an inning each during Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals. Doolittle worked around an error to throw a scoreless inning, while recording a strikeout. And Kintzler bounced back after allowing a single and issuing a walk to put up a zero in his own inning.

Roark battles through outing
Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark did not feel as sharp during his fourth Grapefruit League appearance on Sunday. He gave up three runs on five hits and walked a pair in four innings, the first earned runs he has given up this spring.

Video: STL@WSH: Roark gloves grounder behind his back

"I just didn't feel locked in like I have been, but you're not going to have the greatest stuff every time," Roark said. "You just have to trick them and act like you have it all."

Cole scratched with sickness
Right-hander A.J. Cole, the leader in the competition for the fifth rotation spot, was scratched from his scheduled start Monday afternoon against the Tigers after coming down with a stomach virus. It's the same virus that caused infielder Adrian Sanchez to be sent home Saturday afternoon, although Sanchez returned and played Sunday.

Up next
The Nationals have a long bus ride ahead of them as they travel to Lakeland, Fla., to meet the Tigers on Monday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game. Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson will make the start as he auditions for a spot on the roster. Position players in the lineup will include top prospect Victor Robles, Wilmer Difo and Matt Adams. The game will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.TV.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, A.J. Cole, Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Tanner Roark