Nationals closer Drew Storen underwent surgery today in Washington to remove a small bone fragment from his right elbow joint, his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said in a telephone conversation. Van Wagenen said the operation, which he described as “a minor procedure” performed by the Nationals’ team doctor, was a complete success.

(Julio Cortez/AP)

It is not certain when, exactly, Storen will return. But based on timetables of other pitchers with his injury he could return at some point around the all-star break.

Early this week, the Nationals sent test results on Storen’s elbow to renowned surgeon James Andrews for another opinion. (Storen, despite Manager Davey Johnson’s previous assertion, never visited Andrews.)

Storen first felt pain in his biceps and triceps early in spring training, and the Nationals sent him to Washington on March 22 for an MRI exam and an anti-inflammatory shot. The test revealed no structural damage in Storen’s elbow, but it did reveal a small floating body.

The Nationals hoped the anti-inflammatory shot and rest would cause the discomfort to go away. Often, a bone chip or fragment can become dislodged with rest and relieve the pain.

Sunday, though, Storen felt soreness in his joint while throwing a simulated game, which caused alarm among the Nationals. At that point, they expected they would be without Storen, the 10th overall pick of the 2009 draft, for an extended period.

Storen, 24, saved 43 games last season and entered the spring as the Nationals’ clear-cut closer.

Without Storen, the Nationals will use Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez to close games. Johnson has been alternating them on a daily basis, and each has one save so far this season. Monday, Rodriguez melted down in the ninth inning, turning a tie game into a loss, but in Wednesday afternoon’s 4-0 win over the Mets, he pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts.

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