Clippard critical of Nationals’ handling of Storen

Tyler Clippard had two questions asked of him after the game, and he spoke for more than four minutes.

He spoke with tears in his eyes and his voice breaking a bit at times, and he delivered some forthright and critical comments about the Nationals’ decision to option Drew Storen to Triple-A Syracuse and the way that they have managed Storen’s role on this team dating back to the offseason.

Clippard never once said Rafael Soriano’s name, but it’s clear that he thinks the Nationals made a mistake signing the 33-year-old right-hander to a two-year, $28 million deal this offseason, a move that he feels was punishment to Storen for a blown save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series last October that led to the Nats getting knocked out of the playoffs.

“It’s tough,” Clippard said. “I mean, he’s done a lot this year as far as, he’s worked hard tried to get out of this funk. It kind of snowballed on him there to get to this point. It’s just unfortunate. I think there’s a lot of things that led to this that could’ve been prevented. You know, you basically send a guy a message this offseason for having one bad game that he’s not the guy for the job. He’s only human. I mean, it’s going to get to anybody. He hasn’t had to deal with a lot of adversity. He’s came up and had unbelievable stuff.

“He had success right away. Came in last year, coming off of a surgery, and pitched huge games for us in a 98-win season. Picked me up when I was struggling in September. Picked our team up in the playoffs. Had one bad game. You know, eight months later, you get to a point where he’s struggling and you turn the page on him, you send him down. It’s not necessarily turning the page on him because I think he needs to go down and regroup, get out of this environment, take a deep breath and regather himself. So I think it’s going to help him.

“I just think it’s been handled very poorly. And it could’ve gone either way. I know the same message was sent to me. And I’ve been through adversity over my career, you know? So I know how to handle it. You know, this is a tough day. He’s going to be part of this organization for a long time, I hope, because he’s good. And we need him. But if he goes somewhere else, he’s going to be great for them.

“It’s one of those things that I think was handled very poorly by the organization, but at the same time, that’s the decision that was made and we have to move forward as a team. We have great guys in this locker room that are going to get it done. We’re going to make a playoff push at the end of the season, I have no doubt about that. But this is a tough day.”

Clippard is very close friends with Storen, but he said his displeasure with the Nationals’ handling of Storen goes well beyond that friendship.

“It’s multiple reasons, yeah,” Clippard said. “Obviously, me and Drew are close. We’re good friends. But at the end of the day, you’d like to think that there’s a human element involved in this whole thing, and I think there was on both sides of it. I can understand, you know, after the devastation that happened last year, maybe trying to make a change and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to bring in somebody that we think can get it done in that big situation.’ It’s just the wrong message to send, I think.

“But at the end of the day, that’s what happened and that’s where we’re at. It’s up to me, it’s up to Drew, it’s up to everyone in this locker room to pick ourselves up and move forward. That’s what we have to do, we have no choice. That’s what this game’s all about. So, this is part of it. There’s definitely human element involved in both sides of it, and I can understand that.”

General manager Mike Rizzo opted not to comment on the Storen demotion after the game, waving off an interview request from a reporter.

Storen also did not speak to reporters after the game, but Clippard’s comments speak enough for both of them.

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