You can see the rotation -- Jim Johnson, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez -- tossing warmups to the rest of the bullpen. Johnson is expected to be the closer, and the relievers know they will pitch for their jobs when Opening Day comes around. And unless Ryan Madson suddenly returns from the disabled list, the one member of the bullpen that's in line for the most starts is Jeremy Hellickson.
The closer is pretty common for the club in theory -- Hellickson pitched 14.2 innings for Washington in each of the past two seasons, throwing 23.1 in 2016, and 23.3 in 2015. It may seem counterintuitive that the organization wants him to get more work out of the pen. But, in reality, it's the ideal combination.
The sixth, seventh and eighth innings are where the Nationals got to win the 2017 National League East. Hellickson entered ninth innings averaging 4.79 earned runs per nine innings. The Nationals held .900 team WHIP in the top half of the NL in WHIP with Hellickson on the mound. The Nationals' WHIP in the bottom half (.885) didn't cover up the value of Hellickson in the late innings -- he allowed four earned runs per nine innings. Hellickson was far and away the Nationals' most valuable middle reliever.
More and more, the Nationals need Hellickson and the rest of the relievers -- such as free agent Jeurys Familia and two-time All-Star Adam Ottavino -- to come up when they need them. The Nationals need them to back up starting pitching, but they don't want them handling the closer role. That role belongs to Hellickson or someone else.