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NATIONALS: Drew Storen Activated, Rick Ankiel Designated For Assignment
(Originally posted 7/19/12, 11:14 a.m.; updated 7/19/12, 12:35 p.m.)
WASHINGTON – Drew Storen was activated from the 60-day disabled list Thursday morning, with the Washington Nationals designating outfielder Rick Ankiel for assignment to make room for Storen on the active roster.
Storen, out the entire year after having surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow in April, could potentially serve as the Nationals’ closer later in the day against the New York Mets.
The choice to designate Ankiel for assignment came down to preparing for the weekend. The Nationals have four games in three days against Atlanta approaching – a doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday – and general manager Mike Rizzo wanted eight relievers at least through the weekend.
“You look at the construction of the club and the construction of the bench, [Ankiel] was the logical candidate,” Rizzo said.
Ankiel, who turned 33 on Thursday, was the Nationals’ primary center fielder until Bryce Harper was recalled from the minor leagues the last weekend in May. A late-inning defensive replace since, Ankiel was hitting .228 with 15 runs, 15 RBIs, 10 doubles and five home runs.
Storen served as the Nationals’ closer last season and he went 43-for-48 in save opportunities. The Nationals tried Brad Lidge, Henry Rodriguez and now Tyler Clippard in the closer’s role with Storen out, and Clippard has gone 15-for-16 in save opportunities since assuming those duties in mid-May.
Only two relievers – Ryan Mattheus and Craig Stammen – still have minor league options remaining, though the two have the lowest ERAs (1.69 and 1.66, respectively) in the bullpen.
“The bullpen guys with options are too valuable to send out, and anybody you designate and send out is going to be taken by somebody else,” Rizzo said. “Guys like Mike Gonzalez and Henry Rodriguez, they’re too valuable in 2012 – and Henry, beyond 2012. We couldn’t take the chance of him getting claimed by another club. We have a lineup now that’s fairly set and we can go with a little shorter bench at this time.”
Ankiel was cut instead of Tyler Moore, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, and Roger Bernadina. In Bernadina’s case, Rizzo said, the team found his late-inning baserunning to be an asset.
Though Storen has made six rehab appearances, he’s yet to string them together on consecutive days. He said Wednesday that wouldn’t be a concern and that he’s ready to pitch at the major-league level, but Rizzo said the Nationals would likely ease him back into competition.
“I mean, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s easy to get excited, but patience pays off,” Storen said.
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