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Nats’ Mike Rizzo on Storen Demotion: ‘I Thought We Handled It Perfectly’

by Chris Lingebach
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Drew Storen #22 of the Washington Nationals reacts after giving up a home run in the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on July 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Drew Storen #22 of the Washington Nationals reacts after giving up a home run in the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on July 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - The fallout from former Nats’ closer Drew Storen being optioned to Triple-A Syracuse last Friday is beginning to get ugly.

Tyler Clippard expressed resentment for his former roommate’s demotion immediately following the announcement, publicly referring to it as a situation that’s “been handled very poorly” by the organization.

“You basically send a guy a message this offseason for having one bad game – that he’s not the guy for the job,” Clippard said following the Nats’ doubleheader split with the Mets.

He was referring to the team signing Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal in the offseason, months removed from Storen giving up four runs to the Cardinals in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLDS, in which he blew any chance for the franchise to win its first playoff series.

Fast forward to Wednesday, when GM Mike Rizzo was asked during his weekly radio appearance on 106.7 The Fan, why Storen was forced to pitch against the Mets while suffering from the flu.

Storen felt so poorly, in fact, he had to receive an IV during the game, before taking the mound and giving up three runs in the 9th inning, with the Nats already trailing 8-0.

Rizzo, who said Storen was even separated from the other members of the bullpen during the game, deflected blame to his manager.

“Davey felt that he needed to pitch and it was a very selfless team-orientated thing he did,” Rizzo told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny. “He took the ball when he wasn’t feeling well to try to help the club.”

Although the interview took on a different feel when Rizzo was asked to address Tyler Clippard’s post-game remarks about the demotion. It took on more a feeling of Rizzo returning fire on Clippard through the media, rather than conducting a casual radio interview.

“We certainly could have explained things to him earlier as the process was going on, but the Soriano process kind of took on a life of its own, if you will, and it got to an accelerated point where it happened quickly,” Rizzo said of the offseason acquisition.

“Hey, this is all about improving the ballclub,” he continued. “This move wasn’t to slight Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard, it was to bring in another quality back-end reliever to make us that much stronger. But the move I thought was a good move at the time, and because of the way the contract was structured, it worked for us and we felt good about it.”

Rizzo then reasserted his point of contention with Clippard, who disagreed with how the team handled Storen following the infamous Game 5 meltdown.

“I thought we handled it perfectly,” Rizzo said. “If mishandling the situation means getting an established closer that had 42 saves in New York City then we mishandled it. But I don’t think that’s mishandling it, I think that’s strengthening a strength and getting the best 25 men possible to play on the big league club.”

Tensions are no doubt riding high inside both the clubhouse and front office, as the Nats are down to just 55 games to close a 10-game gap between them and the NL East-leading Braves. Still, Storen was long-regarded as the team’s closer of the future, ever since being called up in May 2010; a future which seemed almost certain after he’d saved 43 games in 2011.

Alas, there’s no telling what the future holds now for Drew Storen with the Nationals, although he’ll have plenty of time to “get it figured out” in Syracuse, as Davey Johnson put it earlier in the day.

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