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With Storen now traded by Nats, focus returns to Papelbon

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With Storen now traded by Nats, focus returns to Papelbon

With the trade of Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night, the focus for the Nationals now shifts to their other relief pitcher whom many expect to be dealt this winter. That would be Jonathan Papelbon, who despite getting in a televised fight with Bryce Harper in late September, remains on the roster three months into the offseason.

The Nationals would still like to trade Papelbon and spring training begins in five weeks, but finding a suitor is not an easy task. Storen getting dealt before Papelbon was always a likely scenario, given their difference in values and the obvious difference in urgency for the team.

The Storen trade perhaps illustrates the benefits of being patient. They waited until the second half of the offseason for a guy who had a terrible second half of the 2015 season and whose year was ended due to a self-inflicted injury to his hand. Yet there were still able to acquire a player in Ben Revere who fits perfectly into their future plans.

Getting a Revere-type haul for Papelbon may be unrealistic, as their intentions to trade him are obvious, he is owed $11 million in 2016 and has a partial no-trade clause to leverage. But Papelbon could still interest a team looking for backend bullpen help, especially as the free agent and trade markets continue to play out. Storen going to Toronto represents one less option for teams hoping to acquire a new closer.

The Nationals bullpen remains deep without Storen with the additions of Trevor Gott, Oliver Perez, Yusmeiro Petit and Shawn Kelley. Felipe Rivero and Blake Treinen are two holdovers from last season who are expected to hold spots. There is also a young crop of relievers who debuted in 2015 that includes Matt Grace, Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole and Rafael Martin.

Right now Papelbon projects as their closer, but he is not likely to be on the roster come Opening Day. If he is indeed dealt, the Nats will be fine in terms of depth, but will create questions as to who closes. Felipe Rivero could conceivably fill that role, though inexperience would be an issue.

Shawn Kelley and Trevor Gott, and even Blake Treinen, could fill late-innings roles, as well. But the Nats are not inclined to rely on young relievers in big spots, as they did last year with little success. The acquisition of Ben Revere to replace Michael Taylor as the starting center fielder is yet another indication of the Nationals opting to go for experience over youth. Also, see Trea Turner's once-supposed chances to compete for a starting middle infield spot.

With Storen gone, Papelbon becomes the primary focus. And if he is traded, a whole new crop of questions will emerge for the Nats and their work-in-progress bullpen.

[RELATED: Nationals trade Drew Storen to Blue Jays]

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; World Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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