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Posted at 07:05 PM ET, 06/22/2012

Drew Storen faces hitters in live batting practice


(Jacquelyn Martin - AP)
Nationals closer Drew Storen made his most significant step yet in his return from elbow surgery today, throwing pitches during live batting practice at Nationals Park. Storen threw roughly 20 pitches – all fastballs – and felt confident in his arm strength and the movement on his ball.

“It was just kind of like, nice, easy,” Storen said. “Velocity’s not going to be there but I was just worried about locating.”

Storen has thrown breaking balls in his bullpen sessions, but today, as Rick Ankiel and Jhonatan Solano took turns standing in the box, Storen used only his fastball. His location, for the first time facing a batter in months, came back to him as he hoped.

“It took one pitch,” Storen said. “The first pitch, Rick was in there and it was like [over his head], and then I was all good. It was all down and you get past the first one. It was nice. It was still weird with like an L screen in front of you. It was good.”

Storen will throw another live batting practice session on Monday, and he could begin a minor league rehab session shortly thereafter. The Nationals expect Storen, who saved 43 games, to make his 2012 debut shortly after the all-star break in July, returning to a bullpen that already ranks among the best in the majors.

Despite his fruitful session against Ankiel and Solano, one thing was missing for Storen. “All I asked was that they’d have the music, the intro and the radar gun,” Storen said, breaking into a smile. “But that’s why my velo wasn’t that good.”

>>> Mark DeRosa went 0 for 2 with a strikeout last night at Class A Potomac in his first minor league rehab appearance. Manager Davey Johnson said DeRosa could return after the weekend. “He just needs to get back into the flow of things,” Johnson said. “He’s been out six weeks or more. With his experience and know how, I don’t look at it to take him more than 2-3 more games.”

>>> The Nationals also expect Henry Rodriguez to return soon. He is on the disabled list with a sprained finger, and the Nationals are his time in the minors to, they hope, allow him to regain his control. Rodriguez walked two batters last night at Class AAA Syracuse, his second rehab outing. “His delivery is fine,” Johnson said. “But sometimes he can get rushed a little bit. By in large, he’s been very consistent. He’s going to be fine. 2-3 more outings he’ll be fine.”

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By  |  07:05 PM ET, 06/22/2012

 
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