Storen heads to Florida as rehab winds down
Righty reliever could return this week, but Clippard will remain closer
BALTIMORE -- Nearing a return from April elbow surgery, Drew Storen will head to the Nationals' Spring Training complex in Viera, Fla., this week to throw live batting practice, and he'll likely rejoin the team at the end of the week for the Braves series.
Storen was packing his bags in the clubhouse prior to Sunday's series finale against the Orioles. After recording 43 saves as the team's closer last year, Storen has been on the disabled list for the duration of the season after April 11 surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. Meanwhile, his best friend on the team, Tyler Clippard, has seized control of the closer's job by going 12-for-12 in save opportunities after taking over for Henry Rodriguez in late May.
After Clippard saved Saturday night's 3-1 win over the Orioles with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, manager Davey Johnson said Clippard will hold on to the closer's role.
"Right now, he's my closer and I can't see me going to somebody else," Johnson said. "[Someone else would] have to show me up here probably in a setup role before they'd have the opportunity to close."
Storen, who finished tied for sixth in the Majors last year in saves, accepted Johnson's decision.
"That's fine, [Johnson's] supporting the guy that's gotten this team to where it's at," Storen said before leaving on Sunday. "Tyler's been that guy, he's been that guy for the three years he's been here. He's supporting him, but at the same time, I know when I come back, I'm going to need to get my feet wet."
Storen is skipping the Nats' four-game series with the Rockies that begins on Monday to face live batters in Viera. Johnson has also said the next step for Storen would be throwing simulated games on the mound, which Storen believes he'll do on Friday.
"When you get into the live BP and the sim games, there's usually not a huge difference," Storen said. "For a reliever, it doesn't matter too much. I'm picking it up all around, it's just a matter of getting the last 10 percent. I feel great, I'm happy with where I'm at."
Though the competition with his closest friend on the team could present an awkward situation, Storen is taking a business-first approach as he wraps up his rehab.
"I don't think it's awkward at all, really," Storen said. "It's business. It doesn't really matter, our friendship has nothing to do with baseball. It's not like we go home and talk about it, ask each other how we feel about it. It is what it is. That's part of the business. We're all here for the same reason, so it doesn't really matter [as long as] we're winning at the end of the year. Nobody's going to be upset about anything."
Zimmerman gets cortisone shot in right shoulder
BALTIMORE -- Ryan Zimmerman received a cortisone injection in his ailing right shoulder before Sunday's game, eliminating much of the soreness he had been feeling and allowing him to enjoy a 2-for-4 day at the plate.
After the 2-1 loss to the Orioles, manager Davey Johnson revealed that Zimmerman had gotten the shot prior to his first multihit game since June 8. Zimmerman said the shot was right on the AC joint in his right shoulder, which has been experiencing inflammation from bone-on-bone grinding.
"The doctor was here today, and we just decided that was going to be the best chance to continue to play and not have to miss any time," Zimmerman said. "It's not going to do anything to further injure my shoulder or anything like that, so there's no risk."
Zimmerman said the plan moving forward is for him to play through the pain with the aid of the shots. He added that he'll "definitely be fine" with this shot until the All-Star break, which begins on July 9.
"Hopefully, we won't have to do it again, but if we do, it was kind of a test trial and it worked out OK," Zimmerman said. "It's not something you want to get into a habit of doing, I guess you could say, but it's better than missing time."
Sunday's outing raised Zimmerman's batting average to .223, still significantly worse than his .284 career mark. Previously, Johnson had expressed concern over Zimmerman's health -- noting the veteran third baseman is unlikely to complain about his ailments even if they are affecting his performance -- but said he wouldn't consider moving him down in the lineup.
When asked if offseason surgery could be an option, Zimmerman acknowledged the possibility but said he had no idea if that would be necessary.
"If it continues to do this every few weeks, at the end of the year they can go in and take the little [bone] chips out. That's about as minor of a surgery as you can have, four to six weeks or something like that. So it wouldn't be a huge deal. But again, we obviously don't want to do that."
The Nationals had won their last three rubber games entering Sunday.
After going 0-for-4 on Saturday night, Ian Desmond's eight-game hitting streak was snapped.
Thirty-one games into a 32-game stretch against American League East and National League East opponents, the Nats were 18-13.
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.