BALTIMORE -- Drew Storen believes he can close in the big leagues. He did, after all, save 43 games for the Nationals in his first full season in the majors. But if manager Davey Johnson believes the team is best served by keeping Tyler Clippard in the ninth-inning role moving forward, Storen is OK with that.
"It's fine," Storen said this morning. "He's supporting the guys who have gotten this team to where it's at. Tyler's been that guy. He's been that guy for the 2-3 years he's been here. He's supporting him."
Out since mid-March due to a bone spur in his right elbow that required surgery, Storen has nearly completed his rehab program. He headed back to the Nationals' spring training complex in Viera, Fla., today and will throw to live hitters there tomorrow. He'll then rejoin the Nationals in Atlanta on Friday and possibly pitch a simulated game.
Storen remains on target to come off the disabled list right after the All-Star break. He believes there could be some benefit to returning in a setup role.
"I know when I come back, I'm going to be good," he said. "But I'm going to need to get my feet wet and I think it will be good for the acclimation of it. In the end, I have all the confidence in the world I can close games. Since day one, since I had surgery, I told myself I was going to come back better. And I believe that wholeheartedly. If people doubt, hopefully I'll prove them wrong. I know I will."
Clippard has successfully converted all 12 save opportunities since ascending to the role last month. He's surrendered only one hit during that span, a level of dominance that prompted Johnson to say Saturday night the right-hander would remain his closer moving forward.
"I know how baseball is," Storen said. "It's what have you done for me lately? And the fact of the matter is, I haven't done anything this year. That's part of the motivation to get back. Because I want to contribute to this team. I felt like I really helped this team out last year, and I really want to be a part of turning this thing around. For me to get back and be a strong contributor in the bullpen, that's what I want to do."