Johnson sticking with Clippard as closer

Johnson sticking with Clippard as closer

BALTIMORE -- Not too long ago, it seemed Drew Storen was destined to reclaim his closer's role with the Nationals once his rehab from right elbow surgery was complete. But with Tyler Clippard going 12-for-13 in save opportunities, it's going to take a strong effort for Storen -- or anyone else -- to take the closer's spot.

After Clippard saved Saturday night's 3-1 win over the Orioles with a perfect ninth inning, manager Davey Johnson said he's sticking with Clippard.

"Right now, he's my closer, and I can't see me going to somebody else," Johnson said. "[Another pitcher] would have to show up here probably in a setup role before they'd have the opportunity to close."

Despite his stated preference to be a closer, Clippard began the season as a setup man. But once Henry Rodriguez proved unreliable as the closer, Clippard slid into the role in late May. Since picking up his first save of the season on May 22, Clippard has appeared in 13 games, allowing zero runs and just one hit in 12 1/3 innings.

"I feel really good about having the confidence of Davey and my teammates, and that goes a long way," Clippard said. "When you're out there grinding and you know that everyone has got your back, it makes it that much easier."

Storen, who underwent surgery on April 11 to remove bone chips from his right elbow, has been targeting a return around the All-Star break. In 2011, he saved 43 of 48 opportunities, finishing the season with a 6-3 record and 2.75 ERA.