Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen threw a successful simulated game at Nationals Park on Monday afternoon and he’ll begin a rehab assignment on Thursday — the final step in his return from surgery to remove a bone chip in his right elbow.
Storen will likely go to Single-A Potomac on Thursday, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said, and will pitch every other day through the All-Star break. He is expected to make four rehab appearances and be ready to return to the Nationals’ active roster when the team opens the second half on Friday, July 13 in Miami.
Storen underwent surgery to remove the bone chip on April 11 and has been on a long road back since then. Everything, to this point, has gone mostly without incident and the Nationals are looking forward to returning the 24-year-old to the back end of their bullpen. When he first returns to the roster, though, most likely Storen will ease his way back into the major leagues by serving in a set-up role to Tyler Clippard.
Storen was aware of that plan and, eventually, there’s a good chance the Nationals will need both to close games this season.
Storen will either start or finish the games that he pitches on rehab, Johnson said, and he’ll be joined by at least one, maybe two, of his Nationals teammates on the rehab assignment.
Chad Tracy will head to Single-A Potomac with Storen on Thursday to begin his own rehab assignment. Tracy, who had surgery to repair a torn right adductor muscle on May 31, will also likely be ready to return when, or shortly after, the Nationals open the second half of the season.
Johnson said there is a 90 percent chance that Xavier Nady, on the DL with right wrist tendinitis, could join them as well.
– Henry Rodriguez, who has been out with a strained right index finger, is essentially healthy and ready to return. Rodriguez was at Nationals Park on Tuesday and he was supposed to throw in front of pitching coach Steve McCatty and Johnson said he told the right-hander “We’re going to activate you soon, just relax.”
Asked if the team had a timetable for when that activation might happen, Johnson said “tentatively, we’re still working on it.” Rodriguez slammed his finger in his bathroom door when the team was in Miami at the end of May but his effectiveness and control had been an issue in his most recent appearances before hitting the DL.
Rodriguez has been strong on his rehab assignment while he’s worked through those issues. He’s thrown seven hitless innings on his minor league rehab assignment, with five walks and seven strikeouts. He is scheduled to pitch in Harrisburg again on Wednesday, Johnson said.
Rodriguez can remain on rehab assignment until July 18.
Update: The Nationals activated Rodriguez from the disabled list at 6 p.m. Tuesday night, placing Chien-Ming Wang, whom Johnson hinted might have a hip issue earlier this afternoon, on the disabled list with a right hip strain.
Here is what Johnson had to say about Wang this afternoon:
“I’m still concerned about Chien-Ming Wang,” he said. “His (personal trainer) here, (Vicky) she was with us the last four or five days on the trip. She thinks that he’s some kind of out of whack because he’s not able to get (his arm) into the position he needs to be to where he’s on top (of the ball). She’s been putting him through exercises and stuff to try to get his mechanics better.
“She thinks there’s something — and she’s not a doctor — but she thinks there’s something in his hip that’s not enabling him to get in (the proper arm) position.”
The activation of Rodriguez represents something of a departure, at least in the short-term, as Johnson was asked directly if Rodriguez could be activated before Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants and he said, “no.”