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Storen, Clippard will share Nats closing duties


Storen, Clippard will share Nats closing duties

Tyler Clippard has been the Nationals' closer since May 22, and during that time he's been one of the most effective closers in baseball, converting 32 of 35 save opportunities and holding opponents to a .179 batting average.

Drew Storen, however, was supposed to be the Nationals' closer this season until an elbow injury required surgery and landed him on the disabled list for 3 12 months. Even upon Storen's return to the active roster in July, manager Davey Johnson decided to stick with Clippard as his ninth-inning reliever based both on his performance and the fact Storen still needed to work himself back into peak form.

Well, Storen has finally gotten himself back into peak form -- witness last night's dominating, three-strikeout save against the Dodgers -- and so Johnson is ready to make a change to the back end of his bullpen two weeks before the Nationals make their postseason debut.

The change: Clippard and Storen will share closing duties, effective immediately.

"The fact is, I told pitching coach Steve McCatty that I have confidence in both of them closing," Johnson said. "And depending on the rest situation, or depending on what I think is the matchup, either one of them could be going eighth, the other one going ninth."

It's a bit of an unconventional move to make at this late stage of the season, but Johnson believes both right-handers are up to the challenge because of their histories pitching both in setup and closing roles.

Clippard's recent hiccup -- he's allowed six runs and 11 hits over his last 6 23 innings -- may have contributed as well, though Johnson framed his decision as having more to do with Storen's recent success. The 25-year-old has been scored upon only once in his last 17 appearances, punctuated by last night's three-strikeout save against Los Angeles to clinch the Nationals' first-ever playoff berth.

The way he pitched during that game, did Storen look like he could close against any lineup in baseball?

"There's no question," Johnson said. "There's no question. I think he's kind of an emotional closer. The situation gets him amped. And he likes to pitch amped."

Johnson said several factors will determine which pitcher he uses in save situations moving forward. If the opposition has several right-handed hitters due up, he's more likely to call upon Storen. If the opposition has several left-handed hitters due up, he's more likely to summon Clippard. He'll also factor in recent usage, not wanting to overwork either pitcher.

"I'm not just going to rearrange the whole bullpen," Johnson said. "They're still my late-inning guys, and both of them are great closers. I'll mix and match. ... All those things are going to come into my decision. And when I bring the guy into the ninth, you'll know who I'm using to close. It's kind of simple."

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.