The Washington Nationals have been able to stay on top of the NL East for most of the season without any help from their 2011 closer, Drew Storen. Nationals' manager Davey Johnson revealed on Wednesday that Storen's return might come as soon as Thursday according to Amanda Comak of The Washington Times:
Drew Storen is nearing activation. "Soon" Davey said, maybe as early as tomorrow.— Amanda Comak (@acomak) July 18, 2012
The good news comes while the Nationals hold the best record in the National League. They have done so in part because of Tyler Clippard, who eventually stepped into the ninth inning role after Henry Rodriguez and Brad Lidge failed in doing the job.
Clippard has gone through stretches where he has looked unhittable and is 14-for-16 in save opportunities this season. Entering Wednesday's game, Clippard has struck out 48 batters in 40.1 innings.
With the return of Storen imminent, what will the Nats' bullpen look like in the upcoming days and weeks?
Adam Kilgore reported earlier in July that Johnson would stick with Clippard in the ninth inning, upon Storen's return. Storen, who saved 43 games in 2011, has not pitched in the majors this season thus making it difficult for him to be expected to close when he returns. However, if Clippard stumbles closing games down the stretch, Storen might be looking to take the reigns back.
A healthy Storen is a huge boost to an already dominant pitching staff. There is no question that the Nats becomes an even tougher team with Storen returning, despite the order that he and Clippard appear in games.