Mr. Mandel Goes To The Bullpen





WASHINGTON — Jeff Mandel pictures himself as a future reliever, and his Arizona Fall League success gives him all the more reason to think that way.

Though the 6-foot-3, 190-pound righthander has 66 starts in 68 career minor league appearances, he went 0-0, 1.88 with 10 strikeouts and no walks in 14 innings for the Phoenix Desert Dogs and did so with confidence. After all, he had come on in relief for much of his college career at Baylor before being drafted in the 19th round in 2007 after his senior year.

"It's been a cool experience starting the last couple of years, but I also like being able to come in and force the issue — really attack hitters and go after it for one or two innings," Mandel said. "You have to have a small focus, be aggressive and throw with some conviction."

When Mandel, 24, compares himself to the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann, he knows the bullpen may be his long-term destination. And this offseason, he's working out in Phoenix with 29-year-old lefthanded reliever Doug Slaten, a new addition to the Nationals' 40-man roster.

"With guys like Strasburg, Detwiler and Zimmermann, I think we have a lot of big-name starters who look like the future of the organization," said Mandel, whose fastball is 87-91 mph when he starts and was 90-93 mph in the AFL. "I'll probably end up in the bullpen, but I'm just trying to do as well as I can and see what happens."

Using a sinker-slider combination with an improving changeup, Mandel pitched effectively at high Class A Potomac (8-4, 3.61 in 100 innings) and Double-A Harrisburg (4-2, 2.94 in 52 innings) last year. He struck out 89 and walked 43 over 25 starts between the two stops.

CAPITAL GAINS

• Lefthander Atahualpa Severino, added to the 40-man roster this offseason, went 0-1, 1.74 in 10 innings with Licey in the Dominican League. He allowed six walks and five hits while striking out eight and holding opponents to a .143 batting average.

Ian Desmond, a candidate to start at either middle-infield position in the majors in 2010, played with the same Licey club. He hit .213/.231/.328 with one home run and 10 RBI in 61 at-bats.