Storen, Clippard react to Soriano signing, crowded bullpen

Drew Storen found out about the Nationals’ surprise signing of closer Rafael Soriano just like many fans.

He saw it on Twitter.

Storen, who saved 43 games for the Nats in 2011 and then returned from elbow surgery last year to post a 2.37 ERA in 30 1/3 innings, then contacted his fellow reliever and in-season roommate Tyler Clippard and broke the news.

“I just called (Clippard) and said, ‘Did you see this?’ And we were like, ‘What?’ It was kind of a random thing,” Storen said. “I don’t really look into all the trade rumors or anything. I just kind of saw people talking about it (on Twitter) and said, ‘Have you heard anything about this?’ Of course, he hadn’t.”

Like the rest of us, Storen initially was taken aback by the Soriano signing. In Storen and Clippard, the Nats already had two guys who had combined to save 79 games over the last two seasons. They also have a healthy Henry Rodriguez coming back, another guy who has closing experience, and Ryan Mattheus, who manager Davey Johnson has often said could be a future closer.

Rafael_Soriano-presser.jpgSoriano will now bump Storen and Clippard from their usual ninth- and eighth-inning roles, and the Nats’ new $28 million man will get the bulk of the save opportunities. Storen obviously would prefer to still be the Nationals’ closer, but he sees the big picture and understands general manager Mike Rizzo’s thinking that Soriano’s presence strengthens a strength.

“It kind of caught me off-guard, but there’s no doubt he’s going to make the team better,” Storen said. “Can’t argue with that. Our bullpen, right now, doesn’t even compete with anybody else’s. It’s night and day better than anybody else. We’re excited to show that. We’ve got a lot of depth down there.”

Ever a pro, Storen said that he knows he can only control what he can control, and his job is to get guys out. Whether that comes in the ninth, eighth or seventh innings, he says, that’s what he’ll try and do anytime he’s given the ball.

Same goes for Clippard, who got his first real taste as a closer last season and was effective, converting 32 of 36 save chances. Now, he’ll likely work the seventh inning most nights that the Nats have a lead.

“Myself and a lot of people didn’t really feel like that was a need for our club, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be a positive thing for everyone,” Clippard said. “Individually, we don’t need any more motivation, but it’s going to give everyone a chance to compete in spring training and to work that much harder to get where we want to go.”

While the Soriano signing affects Storen and Clippard individually, they also know that it affects the overall roster in a positive way. And that’s why they’re on board with the move, even if it came as a bit of a shock initially and will mean fewer chances to work the ninth inning.

“I’m one of 25 guys, and we’re all trying to work towards the same goal,” Clippard said. “If we’re sitting here on November 1 with the trophy for the World Series, nobody is going to be complaining about anything. So that’s what we’re striving for.”

Then, there’s the issue of injuries and other factors that create opportunities. Clippard went into spring training last year as the fourth guy down on the closer depth chart. After Storen got injured and Rodriguez and Brad Lidge lost effectiveness, Clippard stepped in and got the job done.

“It’s a 162-game schedule in baseball. It’s a long season,” Clippard said. “Injuries happen, things happen, people get traded. We understand that, I think everyone does. And to have the depth that we have is going to be beneficial for us regardless of where we’re pitching or what we’re doing at the present time. Everyone is going to have to step in and pitch in big games and big innings and close games out. Everyone is going to have to contribute in a huge way to get where we want to go.”

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