Though they acquired Rafael Soriano specifically to take over closer duties, the Nationals knew all along Drew Storen would still get opportunities to close games. And that first opportunity could come tonight in the opener of a big series against the Braves.
Soriano pitched each of the last three nights, saving every game of the Nationals' sweep of the White Sox, and that leaves his availability for tonight's game against Atlanta up in the air.
Davey Johnson said this afternoon he hadn't yet had a chance to check with Soriano, but the manager suggested he would give the veteran the night off and instead go with Storen should the Nationals hold a slim lead in the ninth inning.
"I think [Storen] probably had a feeling last night he might have been called on, because Soriano has pitched a lot," Johnson said. "I hope we have that problem. I hope we get to a point where it's a decision I have to make."
Soriano has been a durable reliever throughout his career, but he saw very little action this spring; he made only eight appearances in exhibition games, by his request. And he was used extensively during the White Sox series, throwing a total of 57 pitches (including 24 last night, despite the fact the Nationals held a three-run lead).
Johnson usually has a good sense of how much work is too much work for his relievers, but he's yet to figure out the soft-spoken Soriano.
"I thought he probably started the season with not enough work leading up to the season," Johnson said. "And he doesn't expend a whole lot of energy. So he may be indestructible, I don't know. I haven't had him long enough to really read him. Every time he comes out there, he looks pretty much the same."
Storen, who did not pitch last night, hadn't heard anything from Johnson about his role for tonight's game but insisted it's not important he know which inning he'll pitch.
"Honestly, when you're in the bullpen in general, and when you're in a bullpen like our bullpen, things can change," he said. "And we knew that going into the season. That's the way Davey does things. Regardless of when you're throwing, it's always going to be a big situation. Whether it's the eighth or the ninth, it's all the same thing."