From 2009-14, Clippard established himself in the big leagues. He was one of the best relievers in the game, starting as a long reliever and then becoming an outstanding setup man, mostly for closer Drew Storen. Clippard played a big part in turning the Nationals into a winning franchise. With him on the roster, Washington went to the postseason in 2012 and ‘14.
“It awesome. It’s something I wanted for a while,” Clippard said. “I said it before: I left my heart here in D.C. I’ve been kind of a journeyman, [a] rental piece in all the other places I’ve been.
“Don’t get me wrong, doing that kind of thing was fun. I met tons of people in the industry. I went to the World Series [with the Mets]. I’ve seen all facets of baseball since I’ve left here; but this feels like home, and it feels good to be back home.”
It’s been eight years since Clippard last put on a Nationals uniform, and he hopes to be a big part of the team's bullpen. What his role will be remains to be seen. A day after signing a Minor League deal, the 37-year-old Clippard went to work and pitched in an intrasquad game Sunday, throwing one scoreless inning.
It seems like Clippard is not far behind. It helped that he threw eight live batting practice sessions before signing with the Nationals, who are being cautious with the right-hander. While with the D-backs last year, Clippard missed a lot of playing time due to a capsule sprain in his right shoulder. Nats manager Dave Martinez said he is going to keep a close eye on Clippard. However, Clippard is off to a good start.
“He was good. He said he has been throwing. His mechanics were a little off, but he threw the ball well,” Martinez said about Sunday’s outing. “It’s nice to get him back and get him going. We’ll see where he is at. He is going to pitch in another couple of days. We want to be careful and make sure he is ready to go.”
Clippard said he felt so good on Sunday that he could have pitched on Monday, but he also knows that the calendar is stacked against him. If Clippard doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he is willing to go to the Minor Leagues and work on his mound skills.
“I’m not an idiot. I’m not sitting here and saying I’m not going to go over [to Triple-A],” Clippard said. “Listen, I’ve been around the game a long time to know that you need to get ready, and the season is a long season, too. … If I need to go to Triple-A, I’m more than willing and get ready down there.”
During his first tenure with the Nationals, Clippard was a single man. Today he is married with two boys. One can see the smile on his face when he talks about his young family.
“The family is great," he said. "My wife is with the kids, and I’m trying to make the team."