Storen to begin rehab assignment Thursday, Rodriguez close to returning

Drew Storen is getting closer to returning by the day.

The Nationals reliever, who has yet to appear in a game due to an elbow surgery, will begin a rehab assignment on Thursday, likely with Single-A Potomac, according to manager Davey Johnson.

The team plans for Storen to pitch every-other day and appear in four games. That puts him on track to return to the Nationals the first game back after the All-Star break.

"That's the plan," Johnson said. "I think that would be enough."

Storen likely won't have his closer job waiting for him when he returns to the Nationals, as barring some change of plans, Tyler Clippard will hold onto the ninth inning duties.

But his return will help bolster a bullpen which already has five relievers with sub-2.00 ERAs - Sean Burnett, Clippard, Michael Gonzalez, Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen.

Henry Rodriguez could also be close to returning to the Nationals' bullpen. The hard-throwing righty, who has been on the disabled list with a sprained finger for nearly a month, has been told by Johnson that he can expect to be activated shortly.

"We're going to have you back here pretty soon, just relax," Johnson told Rodriguez.

Rodriguez made seven rehab appearances, three with Double-A Harrisburg and four with Triple-A Syracuse. Over those seven innings, he didn't allow a run or a hit, walked five and struck out seven.

While Storen and Rodriguez are coming back from injuries, the Nats are concerned Chien-Ming Wang is battling some sort of ailment which has messed with his mechanics.

Wang's trainer believes that it might be a hip injury which is throwing Wang off.

"I'm still concerned about Chien-Ming Wang," Johnson said. "His trainer here, she was with us the last 4-5 days on the trip. She thinks that he's some kind of out of whack because he's not able to get in the position he needs to be where he's on top (of the ball). So she's been putting him through exercises and stuff to try to get his mechanics better. But that's a work in progress."

Wang has allowed 13 earned runs, 19 hits and eight walks over his last 11 1/3 innings.

Also, Chad Tracy (adductor strain) and Xavier Nady (right wrist tendinitis) are likely to being rehab assignments with Potomac this week, Johnson said.

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