Storen to eventually settle in as backup closer

FLUSHING, N.Y. - Once Drew Storen has a few more appearances under his belt and the Nationals feel that he’s strong and can handle a bit of a heavier workload, manager Davey Johnson will slide Storen in as his backup closer behind Tyler Clippard.

Johnson said today that Storen will keep working in the middle-to-late innings for now, as he works back from surgery which removed bone chips in his elbow.

When Storen, who saved 43 games for the Nationals last season, is ready to handle more high-leverage innings, he’ll be used as a complement to Clippard, who has converted 16-of-18 save opportunities since becoming the Nationals’ closer on May 22.

“(I’ll) do every other day as much as I can to get him hot or geared up and have the adrenaline flowing,” Johnson said. “And then once he gets where I think he’s ready to throw an inning and feel confident that the arm strength and everything is there, his command, then ... I’m looking for him to be fairly quick as the backup closer to Clip. It’s all going to be how he comes along.”

It was probably a little weird for Nationals fans to see Storen come into yesterday’s game and face just one hitter before being pulled. Storen threw two pitches to David Wright, retiring him on a fly ball to center, before coming out of the game in favor of lefty Michael Gonzalez.

Over the course of his brief major league career, Storen has worked at least a full inning in nearly every appearance he made. But Nats fans should get used to Storen seeing more short outings for the time being, as that’s part of the plan to get the 24-year-old back into gear.

This is a plan that Johnson and Storen collaborated on yesterday while Storen was getting treatment on his elbow.

“I asked him, ‘What would be best for you? How can I use you best to get you back to where you were last year?’ And he said, ‘A couple more outings.’ So I’m just looking for short outings where he can get hot and come on in,” Johnson said. “I’ll stay off him today, even though he threw, what, two pitches (yesterday).”

Johnson said he probably “overextended” Storen by putting him into back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday last week, and realizes that while he wants to get Storen back to the point he can handle a normal workload, the reliever isn’t quite there yet.

“I’m going to take him along slow,” Johnson said. “Try to get him back. We have a great bullpen, and it’s only going to get better when he’s right.”

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