A little more than six months after Drew Storen allowed four runs to the Cardinals in the ninth inning in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, he might be called upon for another save opportunity against St. Louis.
Rafael Soriano is not with the Nationals today after leaving to be with his wife in New York for the birth of the couple’s second child, a boy. As a result, Storen would get the ninth inning if the Nats get a save opportunity.
“We’ve been kind of planning this day for a long time. (Soriano) told me about it in the spring,” Johnson said. “She had a baby, because I have a cigar on my desk.”
If Storen gets a save chance tonight, it could prove to be a step in the healing process after what happened in the NLDS. The 25-year-old is off to a rough start to this season, posting a 7.11 ERA in six appearances, but you better believe he’d like another crack at the Cardinals.
“We’ll have the same situation we had a few months ago,” Johnson said.
Johnson has said previously that Anthony Rendon will start at third base for the Nationals with Ryan Zimmerman on the DL with a strained left hamstring. The question is what the Nats will do with Rendon once Zimmerman returns.
That question was answered in no uncertain terms today, when Johnson said there’s no chance Rendon stays with the Nats when Zimmerman is healthy enough to play.
“I don’t care if he hits .900, he’s not gonna beat out Ryan Zimmerman,” Johnson said. “He’s our third baseman. What (Rendon) needs more than anything is just playing time. He hasn’t had a full season professionally. So we just need to get some games under his belt.”
Zimmerman, by the way, hasn’t tested his hamstring since being shut down on Thursday. Talking to the third baseman today, he said he was frustrated that he needed to land on the DL but understood that, because he was ailing, the Nats needed to get another position player up to give themselves a full bench.
Johnson said catcher Wilson Ramos (strained left hamstring) is progressing well and could be ready to head down to Viera, Fla., some time in the next few days to start getting some at-bats in a minor league game. The Nats still feel that Ramos will be ready to return after his 15-day DL stint is up.
“He’s doing good. All reports I get are real good,” Johnson said.
Johnson had an interesting take on Dan Haren’s rocky start to the 2013 season, saying that he thinks the veteran right-hander is a little too focused on his fastball velocity.
Last season, Haren averaged 88.5 mph on his fastball, according to FanGraphs. This season, it’s up to 89.5 mph, but Haren has struggled with his control, allowing 26 hits and 12 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings.
“I think he’s been probably trying to throw too hard and not pitch the way he pitches,” Johnson said. “I know last year he mentioned he didn’t start throwing the ball around 90 miles an hour until September. So he feels stronger, he’s probably trying to do too much with his fastball and not enough with his other stuff.”
Johnson said he isn’t thinking back to the NLDS with the Cardinals in town this week, but did acknowledge that it would be nice to string together a couple wins to turn a recent slide around.
“Today is very important for us,” Johnson said. “We came out of a series where we didn’t play that well. We need to get back on the right foot. They’re a good ballclub, so it’ll be a good test for us. This whole week is going to be good.”