Nats closer Clippard looks forward to facing Jeter

Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Nationals closer Tyler Clippard works out with Derek Jeter, spent his early career in New York and can’t wait to beat the Yankees this weekend.

“I work out with Jeter in the off-season. I’ve never got a chance to face him, ya know, as a hitter,” Clippard told WTOP’s Mike Moss and Bruce Alan Friday morning.

“I played with him a little bit, got to know him as a person, he’s a good dude. But I’ve never got to face him out there on the diamond … I’d just love to face him and have something to brag to him about in the off-season.”

Clippard says he understands the importance of the “Beasts of the East” series against New York this weekend, not only to for the team but for fans.

“It’s big for our club. We started off the AL East teams pretty well, we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Clippard said.

“It’ll be a good test to see where we’re at. We feel confident that we’re one of the best teams in the league.”

Clippard has nine saves under his belt so far this season and is boasting a 2.22 ERA, up from last year. But what’s noteworthy about Clippard’s 2012 season is how he has excelled in his new-found role as closer in the Nats’ last nine games.

The recent injury of his friend and roommate, Drew Storen, has given Clippard the opportunity to step in for the team in the 9th inning.

“It’s a job I’ve been itching to try out,” Clippard said.

“Once I got the opportunity to do it myself, I felt very comfortable. I knew what to expect, not necessarily when I’m out in the game, but in the preparation for the 9th inning. I think that’s the most important part anyway.”

Clippard says the Nats will continue to play “good baseball” this weekend as they host the Yankees at Nationals Park. Washington fans can only hope his save count will rise as the summer series heats up.

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