The Washington Nationals traded for closer Jonathan Papelbon on Monday, even though they already had a perfectly capable ninth-inning pitcher in Drew Storen.
No big deal, General Manager Mike Rizzo said after completing the transaction with Philadelphia. The move will just make the team’s pitching staff even stronger.
“Papelbon is our ninth-inning pitcher,” Rizzo said. “Drew will pitch the ninth inning at times when Papelbon is unavailable and be our set-up guy in the eighth inning as we are constructed today. Paps hasn’t pitched too many three-days-in-a-row stints. We’re going to be careful with him and we feel that we’ve got two terrific, elite ninth-inning guys who can close out games in pressure situations.”
But Rizzo may not have run his plan past his current closer in advance.
“All I’m going to say is that I’m aware of the move and I’ve talked to Mike about it and talked to my agent and we’ve had some ongoing discussions and until those have progressed I’m going to leave it at that and no comment for now,” Storen said following the Nationals’ 4-1 loss to Miami on Monday night. “As the situation goes, I’ll keep you guys posted.”
Papelbon is an 11-year veteran who is the career saves leader for two teams -- the Phillies (123) and the Boston Red Sox (219). He hasn’t blown a save all year.
Of course, Storen is no slouch either. He’s spent all six of his major league seasons with the Nationals, ranking seventh on the team’s all-time saves list with 95. The former first-round draft pick has converted 29 of 31 save attempts this season.
Opposing teams should have a heck of a time batting against the Nationals in the eighth and ninth innings now ... as long as everyone in the Washington clubhouse is on board.