Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard to split closer role for the Nationals

Alex Brandon / AP

Earlier today, we wondered if Drew Storen could become the Nationals’ closer this year. Davey Johnson provided the answer this afternoon: yes.

The job is not Storen’s alone, Johnson emphasized. Storen’s powerhouse save Thursday night proved he has come all the way back, and then some, from his April elbow surgery. He struck out Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, hopping around the mound as if his legs were spring-loaded.

Storen saved 43 games last season, and this year, when working in the ninth inning or later, Storen has allowed no runs in 7 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts. Clippard, meantime, has a 4.85 ERA since the all-star break. Still, Johnson plans to split the closer duties between Storen and Clippard, the right-handers who live together.  

“I have confidence in both of them closing,” Johnson said. “Depending on the rest situation or depending on what I think is the matchups, either one of them could be going eighth and the other one ninth.”

Even though both Clippard and Storen are right-handed, Johnson envisioned Clippard pitching against left-handed hitters. Clippard’s combination of high fastballs and changeups are effective against left-handed hitters. Storen, with his backdoor slider and front-hip sinker, is deadly against right-handers.

Johnson’s response about matchups could be read as a vote for Storen, made in a way that would let Clippard down easy. Storen has thrived in the role, and he has been the Nationals’ closer of the future since they chose him with the 10th overall pick in 2009. His standing then has no bearing on the current decision, but his stuff looks like the best in the bullpen.

“He’s kind of emotional closer,” Johnson said. “The situation gets him a little amped, and he likes to pitch being amped.

“Obviously, he’s all the way back. Clip has been outstanding this year also. I’m not going to just rearrange the whole bullpen. They’re still my late-inning guys, and both of them are great closers. I’ll mix and match. Depending where we’re at today, maybe I’ll go with Clip, because he’s more rested. All those things are going to come into my decision.”

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.



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James Wagner · September 21, 2012

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