When 24-year-old '09 1st Round pick Drew Storen had surgery to remove a "bone fragment" from his right elbow, the speculation was that the closer who saved 43 games last year while posting a 2.75 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 20 walks (2.39 BB/9) and 74 K's (8.84 K/9) would be able to return some time after the All-Star Break. With Storen out the Nationals tried to work with a tandem of relievers taking over the ninth inning duties until Brad Lidge too got hurt and Henry Rodriguez imploded. (As D.C. GM Mike Rizzo pointed out recently, Rodriguez did save 9 of 12 opportunities after being thrust into the late-inning role.) After Rodriguez, the Nationals, who'd been reluctant to remove Tyler Clippard from the set-up role he'd been so effective in the last few years, finally turned to the 27-year-old as their ninth inning option and he's thrived there ever since, going eight for eight in save opportunities and throwing 8.1 scoreless inning in relief in which he's walked three, K'd nine and given up just one hit.
When Rizzo talked about Clippard during last week's Mike Rizzo Show on 106.7 the FAN in D.C., he told hosts Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier that he was extremely happy with what he's seen from the hard-throwing right-hander, explaining that the decision to make the former New York Yankees' starter a reliever, "... was one of the better moves that we've made here with the Nationals in [player] development. He's taken to the relief role. His record speaks for itself. He can get righties and lefties out. And he's got guts and poise and he's certainly not afraid of those last three outs and he's proven it recently and he's going to continue to flourish."
Will Clippard return to his set-up role when Drew Storen returns? Will Clippard's success allow the Nationals to work the younger reliever back at a slower pace to make sure he's 100%. With the strong group of relievers the Nats have is this the baseball version of the #firstworldproblems Twitter meme? Will Storen have cut his hair and grown a rehab beard when he returns? All important questions. According to a report from Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak on Twitter (@AComak) this afternoon, Storen took another step in his rehab today. Actually, it was the second time he took the same step, but it's an important one as he works his way back off the DL:
#nats closer Drew Storen threw off a mound today for the second time since surgery. (First time was Friday).— Amanda Comak (@acomak) June 11, 2012