Trio of Nats relievers working their way back

Trio of Nats relievers working their way back

WASHINGTON -- En route to their first-place standing in the National League East, the Nationals have withstood injuries to closer Drew Storen and righty Brad Lidge, as well as a bevy of other relievers.

Nevertheless, the Nats' bullpen ranks ninth in baseball with a 3.15 ERA entering Saturday, and several relievers could be rejoining a staff that manager Davey Johnson recently called "second to none."

Storen has been playing catch daily for the past week and will throw again Saturday, keeping him on track for a return around the All-Star break after April surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

Henry Rodriguez, who appeared in 24 games and briefly held the closer's role before being sidelined with a strained right index finger, could also return soon. Johnson said Rodriguez will probably throw a bullpen session on Sunday and then is likely to head to Triple-A Syracuse for a rehab assignment.

Ryan Mattheus could be the closest of all to a return, as the right-hander continues to work his way back from a plantar fascia strain in his left foot that landed him on the 15-day disabled list on May 22. Johnson said Mattheus is "real close" to returning, as the primary concern was seeing how his foot will hold up.

"His foot's coming through it all right, that's the big thing," Johnson said. "His arm's fine. I'm more concerned about that sheath on the foot -- is it going to hold up? It looks like it is."