Rizzo on Clippard's comments: "I commend him for having a strong opinion on it"

You've heard from Davey Johnson on the Nationals' decision to option Drew Storen to Triple-A Syracuse. You've heard from Tyler Clippard on why he takes issue with how the Nats have managed his good friend and teammate.

You've even heard my thoughts on the whole situation.

Now let's hear from general manager Mike Rizzo, the one who decided to sign Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal this offseason and option Storen yesterday.

"We felt that (Storen) was struggling - struggling with his mechanics, with his tempo, with his delivery, with his arm slot - and we felt that we would do him better by letting him go down in a less stressful situation, work on his mechanics, get it fixed and get back up here and help us," Rizzo said.

"He's performed admirably in '11, he hurt his arm in '12 and had surgery. He was slow to recover from that and come back from that, and this year, I think that he was at a point where his arm was finally back to health and his mechanics went away from him. He has to get back to what made him successful - leveraging the baseball downhill, getting movement on his stuff and commanding the baseball much better. To me, the velocity is back to where it was pre-injury, pre-surgery, and now he needs to get back to the deliver, the tempo and the command of the stuff."

Johnson talked with Storen last night prior to meeting with reporters. Pitching coach Steve McCatty met with Storen for about an hour after that. Rizzo then talked to Storen for a while this morning, a back-and-forth that Rizzo called that "a good conversation."

"He took it hard, like a lot of guys that have established themselves in the big leagues take it," Rizzo said. "I explained to him our rationale for it and that he's a huge part of this organization and he's going to be for a long time and just need to get him right.

"It's very difficult, especially for a reliever, to tweak your delivery and get your delivery back in sync when you're in a competitive situation at the big league level trying to win games. We feel that sending him down there, getting him in a less stressful situation, getting him with (minor league pitching coordinator) Spin Williams and (Syracuse pitching coach) Greg Booker, who've had him before, had him when he's been extremely successful, I think it will benefit him."

Rizzo said the Nationals had decided to send Storen down prior to yesterday's doubleheader, so the reliever's performance yesterday afternoon, in which he allowed three runs over 2/3 of an inning while pitching with the flu, didn't factor into the decision.

Clippard was critical of the Nationals' decision to sign Soriano this offseason during his emotional interview last night, saying that by bringing in Soriano and establishing him as the closer, the Nats sent Storen a message that "he's not the guy for the job." That, Clippard feels, affected Storen mentally.

Rizzo doesn't necessarily think the Soriano signing should have played a mental factor as far as Storen was concerned.

"I don't see the reason why it should've," Rizzo said. "He's a mentally strong person with good stuff. (With Soriano), we're getting an established closer with a great track record. We felt there was another guy that added depth and power to the end of the bullpen."

Rizzo was asked about his reaction to Clippard's comments.

"I talked to Clip also, and we've got an open-door policy here," Rizzo said. "His opinion means a lot to me. I disagree with his assessment of the situation, but you fight to the death to let them speak their mind and say what they want. And that's what makes these guys what they are on the mound. You've got to have a certain type of attitude and makeup to pitch in the latter end of these games.

"They're a competitive bunch, and the one thing I've never shied away from is when we have a discussion, we have it man-to-man, eye-to-eye, and I certainly can take his opinion. Like I said, I don't agree with it, but I commend him for having a strong opinion on it."

In his pregame session with reporters today, Johnson was also asked how he responded to what Clippard said last night.

"I understand all of it," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, a lot of the things, that's baseball."

This might have been the first time that Clippard spoke up publicly and criticized the way the Nats managed Storen, but his opinion (one shared by some other Nationals players) was not a secret.

"It's been out," Johnson said. "It's not news."

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