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Storen looking good at Potomac

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Storen looking good at Potomac

By Ben Raby

WOODBRIDGE, VA. The game-time temperature was 97 degrees at Pfitzner Stadium, but starting pitcher Drew Storen could not have been comfortable.

The Washington Nationals closer made his first of four scheduled rehab appearances Thursday night for Single-A Potomac as he nears a return to the Nats bullpen. Storen said afterwards that he was pain free.

It felt great, he said. The mechanics felt really good I just wanted to be down in the zone and sink my sinker and I thought I did a good job doing that. So I was happy with how everything went and I felt that I was commanding the strike zone well.

Storen pitched in a live game Thursday for the first time since Spring Training and threw a scoreless first inning without allowing a base runner. He needed just eight pitches to retire the only three Frederick Keys he faced.

The 24-year-old has missed the entire season after undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip in his right elbow in April.

I didnt feel like I had to put any restrain on anything so thats a good thing, he said.
I was out there pitching and I was worried about where to throw it and what pitch to throw in each count and not worrying about is this going to hurt or not? Honestly, before I had surgery and in Spring Training that was my main concern and now that I dont have that in my head Im really happy with it.

Storen threw six of his eight pitches for strikes while registering a popout, a flyout and a groundout. Originally slated to throw as many as 25 pitches, Storen joked afterwards that he was just too efficient.

Its about getting your feet wet more than anything, he said. Pitch count isnt necessarily important right now for me; its just about facing hitters. Its a whole other ballgame when youre facing hitters in a game and youve got umpires and everyone here.

Storen threw five fastballs, all of which were in the 91-92 MPH range, and his velocity is one area that hell look to improve in his upcoming appearances. Manager Davey Johnson said this week that Storen would likely pitch every other day before returning to the Nats active roster next Friday, July 13.

My velocity isnt where its going to be when Im pitching in the ninth inning of a big league game but its still there. You have stepping stones in rehab and each outing it will ideally go up.

That comes with arm strength and at this point where I gain arm strength is by throwing in a game. If I can have another outing like this the next time Im out, Ill be a very happy camper.

Storen finished fourth in the National League with 43 saves last season while going 6-3 with a 2.75 ERA. His start Thursday was his first since high school and he acknowledged afterwards that it was a little different and that he almost forgot to stand on the mound for the national anthem.

When Storen returns to the Nats active roster following next weeks All Star break, hell return to the bullpen- but not to his usual role as the teams fulltime closer.

The closer role now belongs to Tyler Clippard who entered play Thursday 13-for-13 in save opportunities while allowing just two hits and no runs in 16.1 innings in his last 17 appearances.

Johnson has said that Storen will most likely be eased in as a setup man.

Im preparing to close regardless, Storen said. I know coming in that the plan is to have me set up when I first get back and that needs to happen. Thats part of the acclimation process and its just a matter of getting your feet wet at each different level. I know what I have to do.

Storen is expected to pitch again for Potomac on Saturday.

NOTES: Chad Tracy was also in the Potomac lineup Thursday as he rehabs from surgery to repair a torn right adductor muscle. Tracy went 0-for-2 with two well hit balls to the outfield. The Nats third baseman was robbed of extra bases in his first at-bat when Frederick right fielder Steven Bumbry made a leaping catch at the right field fence. Tracy last played with the Nats May 26.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.