When Storen returns, Clippard likely remaining the closer

What seemed like a nice, quiet 3-1 Nationals win turned into a lot more shortly after the game.

We learned Ryan Zimmerman might need to get another cortisone shot in his inflamed right shoulder and could land on the disabled list. And, we also learned that even when Drew Storen returns to the Nationals, he’s unlikely to take over the closer’s role that he’s held for much of his major league career.

Manager Davey Johnson said tonight that given how Tyler Clippard has been performing in save situations with Storen out after elbow surgery, Clippard will remain the closer, barring some sort of change.

“Right now he’s my closer, and the way he’s going, I can’t see going to somebody else,” Johnson said. “They’d have to show me up here probably in a set-up role before they have the opportunity to close.”

That plan, of course, could get adjusted down the road. Clippard could start struggling, and Storen might look great on his rehab assignment, forcing Johnson to change up and use Storen in his usual ninth-inning role.

But how Clippard is going right now, it’s hard - scratch that - it’s nearly impossible to say that he doesn’t deserve to stay in his current spot.

“It’s great,” said Clippard, when informed of Johnson’s decision. “I feel really good having the confidence of Davey and my teammates. It goes a long way. When you’re out there grinding, you know that he’s got your back. It makes it that much easier.”

Clippard has converted all 12 of the save opportunities he’s had since taking over the closer’s role. In that time, he hasn’t given up a run, has allowed just a single hit and has 16 strikeouts to just five walks.

Johnson said recently that Storen is expected back after the All-Star break. Even after he’s back with the Nats, however, Storen will likely need some time to get into a groove to throw at the level he was last season when he posted 43 saves.

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