The Nationals have played nine games thus far this season. Rafael Soriano has pitched in six of them.
That includes each of the last three nights. Soriano worked the ninth inning in each game of the Nats' recent series against the White Sox, notching three straight saves.
The heavy recent workload might prevent Soriano from handling the closer's duties tonight if the Nats have a ninth-inning lead. Manager Davey Johnson indicated after yesterday's game that he might go to Drew Storen tonight in a save situation, and he purposely held off on using Storen in the series finale against Chicago to prevent the 25-year-old from throwing three straight days himself.
Asked today whether Soriano would get tonight off, Johnson was noncommittal but seemed to lean towards giving Storen the save opportunity if one presents itself.
"I don't have a good read on (Soriano) yet," Johnson said. "I tried to talk to (pitching coach Steve) McCatty about him. I said, 'How's Soriano doing?' (McCatty said,) 'He just grins. I ask him how he's feeling, he just grins. Doesn't say nothing.' So I don't know where we're at on that, to be honest with you. But he threw a lot of pitches last night."
Johnson usually puts the onus on his veteran relievers to determine when they've had too much work and need a day off. He hasn't yet been able to get a good handle on how much of a workload Soriano can take, but also hasn't heard from the right-hander saying that he needs a rest.
"He hasn't cried uncle for me yet," Johnson said last night.
Some managers might proactively stay off a reliever if they feel like he's gotten too much work, but Johnson lets his pitchers determine their workload, to an extent.
"They never want to come out, and if I don't see anything that leads me to believe that they're throwing too much... if I see something, then I'll probably give them (a rest)," Johnson said.
"I don't know how a guy feels. I thought (Soriano) started the season with probably not enough work leading up to the season. He doesn't expend a whole lot of energy even warming up. He may be indestructible, I don't know. I haven't had him long enough to really read (him). Every time he comes out there, he looks pretty much the same for me."
Storen, for what it's worth, says regardless of whether he works the eighth or the ninth, it doesn't affect his preparation at all. He might get a heads-up from Johnson during batting practice telling him that he'd work the ninth tonight, but he won't change his approach either way.
"When you're in the bullpen in general, and when you're in a bullpen like our bullpen, things can change, and we knew that coming into the season," Storen said. "That's the way Davey does things. Regardless of when you're going to throw, I've said it over and over, it's always going to be in big situations. ... It's all the same. And I think the ability to minimize the game and concentrate on what you need to and not worry about that stuff, that helps."
In addition to Soriano and Storen, Johnson also has Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez as options late in games, both of whom also have closing experience. He has plenty of candidates for the ninth inning but might need to make a tough call late in the game if the Nationals have another slim lead.
"I hope we have that problem," Johnson said. "I hope it gets to the point where it's a decision I have to make."