Washington Nationals' closer Tyler Clippard saved his 12th game in 12 2012 opportunities last night in the Nats' 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Since taking over as the team's closer the 27-year-old right-hander has thrown 13.1 scoreless innings over which he's allowed just one hit, walked five (3.38 K/9) and K'd 16 (10.80 K/9). Clippard only took over the Nationals' ninth inning duties after both Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez failed to claim the job Drew Storen had previously claimed as his own during the 2011 campaign.
The Nats' 24-year-old '09 1st Round pick saved 43 games last season while posting a 2.75 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 20 walks (2.39 BB/9) and 74 K's (8.84 K/9) in 73 games and 75.1 IP. Storen hasn't pitched at all this year, however, after having surgery this Spring to remove a bone fragment from his elbow. The right-hander has recently started throwing off a mound though, and a return at some point after the upcoming All-Star break remains the plan as it's been since the injury to his elbow was diagnosed. So what happens when Storen returns and is available to pitch out of the Nats' bullpen?
Tyler Clippard was asked earlier this week during a radio interview with Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. "We're real good friends and we're pulling for each other at all times," Clippard told the hosts when asked if he'd even discussed the pending situation with his team-and-roomate, "And there's really no need for it. We're kind of on the same page as far as we're professionals and we're on the Washington Nationals and we want to win ballgames and so the beauty of that is no matter who's closing the game we're all pulling for the same goal and I think we're comfortable in that and so, no there's no need for that [conversation], we're all on the same page for sure."
After Clippard's dominant performance in earning his 12th save last night, Nats' manager Davey Johnson told reporters he'd have a hard time moving Clippard out of the closer's role:
Davey on if he'd keep Clippard as closer when Storen's back: "I can't see going to someone else. He'd have to show me up here first."— Amanda Comak (@acomak) June 24, 2012
Asked about the comments his manager had made this morning, before he heads back to the Nationals' facilities in Florida for more rehab work, Storen was quoted stating that he essentially agreed with his manager's assesement of the situation:
Storen on Clippard as closer: "Baseball is what have you done for me lately? Fact of matter is I haven't done anything this year."— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) June 24, 2012
Tyler Clippard, who made his desire to work in the ninth inning known after Henry Rodriguez struggled in the role, told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Mr.'s Kushner and Rouhier in his interview this week that both he and Storen would work in whatever roles the Nationals told them to once Storen was back on the mound in the majors. "Whatever the Washington Nationals want to do we're okay with," Tyler Clippard said, "and we want to go out there and get an out, get three outs, whatever the case may be, whatever the inning is, it doesn't matter. We're trying to win ballgames." Last year Clippard was dominant in the set-up role, with a 1.83 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 26 walks (2.65 BB/9) and 104 K's (10.60 K/9) in 72 games and 88.1 IP. It might be Storen's turn to return the favor when he's back on the mound and throwing for the Nationals.
• Listen to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier talk to Nats' closer Tyler Clippard: