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Storen not all the way back yet

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Storen not all the way back yet

At various points over the last few weeks, Davey Johnson has noted Drew Storen looks like he's all the way back from the elbow surgery that sidelined him for the season's first 3 12 months.

Storen, though, isn't quite all the way back yet. He's had his moments of dominance, but he's also had the occasional stinker, as was the case late last night in San Francisco.

Handed the ball by Johnson for the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Nationals trailing 2-1 and trying to give themselves a chance at a late rally, Storen instead turned a tight ballgame into a lopsided loss. He gave up four runs while retiring only one batter, his worst outing to date this season.

Storen hadn't been charged with a run in nearly a month, not since he contributed to the Nationals' July 20 implosion against the Braves, turning a 9-0 lead into an 11-10 loss. But he'd had several more shaky outings since, perhaps setting the stage for something like this to happen.

Over his last seven appearances (spanning five innings) Storen has issued six walks. That's a staggering high total for a reliever who in his first two big-league seasons walked only 2.9 batters per nine innings.

This shouldn't come as a huge surprise, though, because it's all part of the 25-year-old's full recovery from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. As is almost always the case with pitchers returning from surgery to either their elbow or shoulder, command is the last piece of the puzzle. And inconsistency usually reigns.

One night, Storen has been able to locate on a dime, such as Sunday's appearance in Arizona when he needed only nine pitches to record three outs. The next, his off-speed stuff appears to have too much movement, so much so that he can't control it.

It's still going to take some time for Storen to get that pinpoint command all the back and to be able to count on it from game to game. That's why Tyler Clippard remains such an important member of the Nationals' pitching staff, and that's why Clippard will remain their primary closer for the foreseeable future.

Would Johnson like to get Storen back into closing situations, to the point where the manager feels comfortable using him in the ninth inning of a key pennant race game? Absolutely.

But in order for that to happen, Storen is going to need to get some more work in less-demanding situations. He's still working things out, getting a feel for all his pitches, and the best time to accomplish that is when there's no pressure.

Storen will close more games before this season is over. And he might very well re-assume the ninth inning role from his teammate and roommate.

But for now, the Nationals are wise to stick with Clippard, a reliever who's already in midseason form while Storen still deals with kinks he'd normally try to work out in spring training, not in mid-August for a first-place club.

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Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Will Mike Rizzo continue to shape the Nationals? The Junkies believe he's too valuable to lose

Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Wieters aren't the only important guys within the Nationals organization becoming free agents in 2019.

President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo is also becoming a free agent when his contract expires on October 31st.

In the final year of his five-year contract, the 57-year old is set to make $2.5 million.

RELATED: HOWIE KENDRICK RETURNING TO NATIONALS

Since joining the organization, Rizzo has turned the team into a legit World Series contender. They've won four division titles in the last six years under his guidance, but have been unable to get over the NL Division series hump. And even though that's a glaring red mark on his resume, Rizzo knows the success he's brought to the organization. 

When you look at what we accomplished,’’ Mike Rizzo said in a recent interview, “it’s really unsung and underappreciated. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here. I like it here. I love the city. I love the team I put together. I like being a GM in the NL East. And I want to stay here. I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too.

Rizzo is talking about GM's like Cubs' Theo Epstein and Yankees' Brian Cashman, who've received big paydays over the last year.

I know we haven’t won the World Series, but I get tired of hearing how we can’t win the big one, or we can’t get out of the first round. We haven’t had that many chances.

Does Rizzo deserve an extension? The Sports Junkies think he does, but with GM's like the ones above cashing out, they can also see him wanting to test the open market.

"Why wouldn't they?", said Jason Bishop, noting his track record.

"There's a sense he wants to test the market," said Eric Bickel. That's the vibe I'm getting from him."

Rizzo is a weekly guest on the Junkies and has said that the organization will figure it out. However, the 2018 season may be the last time for a long time the Nats have a real shot at making a run before they lose some of their stars to other teams. If Rizzo does take that into consideration and decides to go elsewhere, the Junkies don't see him having any issues finding employment.

"If there was a time to roll, it would be after this season when you get your last run with this group," said Eric Bickel. And then If they don't pay you what you think you deserve, he'll be snatched up in 22 seconds."

RELATED: BEST OF NATS' RACING PRESIDENT TRYOUTS

If they do decide to sign him to an extension, will it be a long, drawn-out ordeal? The Junkies disagree on that one. 

"He is too valuable, Jason Bishop said. He's too valuable. You gotta ink him to a deal sometime during the season."

Luckily for D.C. sports fans, long, drawn-out extension talks aren't foreign to them.

To see their full discussion, click the media player above. 

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

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Nationals re-sign Howie Kendrick for two-years

WASHINGTON  -- The Nationals have agreed to a $7 million, two-year contract with outfielder Howie Kendrick, a deal subject to a successful physical.

Agent Pat Murphy confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Monday. USA Today was first to report the deal.

Kendrick, 34, hit .293 with seven home runs and RBIs in 52 games with Washington after he was acquired from Philadelphia. The versatile right-handed hitter got just three plate appearances off the bench in the playoffs.

In 12 major league seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and Nationals, Kendrick is a .291 hitter with a .755 OPS. He's now primarily an outfielder for Washington after playing left field, second base, first base and other positions throughout his career.