WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he considers reliever Drew Storen a closer even though the ninth inning has gone to Tyler Clippard this season. Storen, who lost his job to Clippard because of an elbow injury, has tossed scoreless ball in 18 of his 20 appearances.
"It's hard to get off 'Clip.' He is almost perfect," Johnson said. "But I don't have to abuse 'Clip' at this point. I like where Storen has been at the last two or three times out. So I think he is all the way back obviously."
Storen, who missed the first half of the 2012 season because of bone chips in his right elbow, had arguably his best outing on Wednesday night when he was able to get out of an intense jam against the Marlins during an 8-4 victory. In the eighth inning, there were runners on second and third with no outs when Storen replaced Sean Burnett.
Carlos Lee flied out to center field, while Giancarlo Stanton struck out before Storen induced a weak grounder to third from Justin Ruggiano. Johnson thought Storen won the game by having a solid eighth inning.
"I think the biggest thing for me was I didn't get overamped, I didn't overdo it," Storen said. "That was kind of the biggest thing that I looked at that was the biggest positive. It's easy to get into that situation sometimes where you got fired up, especially because coming off an injury, I keep building up and increasing the workload, I keep increasing the situations. It's a step forward for me, and I didn't feel like I did too much.
"I wouldn't say [the outing on Wednesday] was different. I would say that I did a good job at not overextending. It would be easy if it was maybe earlier right when I came back. I probably would've tried to do a little too much.
"For me to kind of just stay the course on that outing is kind of the most important thing. I wasn't going out and trying to throw 100 [mph]. I was just trying to pitch to the situation. Now with my stuff back, I'm starting to pitch to the situation."
Strasburg has 'few more to go' before shutdown
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Stephen Strasburg's season is close to coming to an end. Johnson declined to say when that day will be.
The news comes two days after Strasburg had arguably the worst outing of his career against the Marlins, allowing seven runs -- five earned -- in five innings.
According to Johnson, Strasburg has two to three more starts. He already has pitched 150 1/3 innings. Strasburg is on an innings limit after having Tommy John surgery in late 2010. He could pitch between 160 to 180 innings.
If he misses the last three starts of the regular season, Strasburg's final start could be Sept. 12 against the Mets. If Strasburg misses the final two starts, his last start could be on Sept. 19 against the Dodgers, if the Nats stay with their five-man rotation without skipping anyone's turn despite two team off-days, on Sept. 13 and 17. Strasburg does not know when his last game will be. He will not pitch in the postseason.
Johnson told Strasburg on the plane on Wednesday night he "has a few more [starts] to go." Johnson also said there is a firm plan in place to shut Strasburg down.
For the season, Strasburg is 15-6 with a 3.05 ERA and a National League-leading 186 strikeouts. Asked what improvements he would like to see from Strasburg for next year, Johnson said, "He is perfect as far as I'm concerned -- his work habits, his [bullpen sessions]. It's just a learning curve. ... Stuff comes from experience."
Davey likens fiery Harper to former Met Jefferies
WASHINGTON -- A day after outfielder Bryce Harper was ejected for throwing his helmet in front of first-base umpire C.B. Bucknor, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Harper reminds him of former infielder Gregg Jefferies, who played for Johnson with the Mets in the late 1980s. Jefferies had a reputation of being a hot head in New York.
"They were very similar," Johnson said.
Johnson insisted that Harper's anger was not directed at Bucknor. To Johnson, Harper was just expressing his emotions about hitting into a double play.
"Everything he does is kind of full bore," Johnson said. "He is not going to lay the helmet down. Just like he is not going to jog to first. I look at things that happen for the best. ... It was better for him to get thrown out than having an equipment violation. And that to me was an equipment violation. ... That's part of learning up here."
Before Wednesday's game, Harper hit himself in the head. Johnson wasn't sure how it happened, but he saw an injury atop the outfielder's head.
"At least he is not tired. He is trying to run into things," Johnson said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.