HOUSTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Monday he's comfortable with either Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen closing out games, but he's not worried about Clippard looking over his shoulder as last year's closer returns to form.
"I'm real confident right now in either Clip or Storen closing," Johnson said. "Clip has had the hotter hand and carried the bulk of the work, and I'm not going to take anything away from him because he's been so good."
However, Johnson said he will be reluctant to pitch Clippard in three straight games going forward, creating opportunities for Storen to get back to pitching the ninth inning, like he did when he saved 43 games last year. Sometimes, depending on the leverage of the situation or the part of the lineup due up, Johnson might send out Storen for the ninth anyway.
Despite all that, and Storen's relatively smooth return from surgery earlier this year, Johnson affirmed Tuesday that Clippard is still his closer.
"Clip knows he's done a good job. He's done a good job setting up, and he's done a good job closing," Johnson said. "Right now, he's the guy out there."
Both relievers struggled in Monday night's 5-4, 11-inning win over the Astros. Storen entered with two outs in the eighth, walked the bases loaded but eventually got out of the inning. Clippard, who has given up 10 runs while striking out 21 in 14 innings since the All-Star break, gave up the tying run but struck out three to force extra innings.
"If we have more games like last night, no telling what I'm going to do," Johnson joked.
As a whole, the Nationals bullpen has pitched 341 1/3 innings this season, second-most in the National League behind the Rockies, who are using a four-man rotation. With Storen back and the relievers getting more comfortable in their roles, Johnson thinks they're set to hold up for the long haul.
"I think they're holding up great," Johnson said. "Very durable. I don't like to use them back-to-back-to-back, but five of them have actually closed, so they're used to pitching a lot. That makes it easier. I don't like to do too much back-to-back with a lot of the guys, but they've also been used in setup roles.
"They're used to coming back on short rest. I'm not concerned about hurting them at this point."
Johnson cautious with Werth's leg soreness
HOUSTON -- Jayson Werth said after leaving Monday night's game due to soreness in his legs that he would be good to go Tuesday, and he felt the same way Tuesday afternoon. But he wasn't in the starting lineup, as manager Davey Johnson is playing it safe with the veteran outfielder.
Werth felt fine Tuesday -- much better than he did Monday -- and said he could play if called upon. But around the sixth inning of Monday's 11-inning marathon, Werth started to feel like he couldn't do anything but hit. He got picked off at first base and his legs were tight and fatigued, and he knew staying in the game wouldn't help the Nationals win.
"He was really hurting," Johnson said. "His legs just aren't under him yet. When he got picked off at first, I could tell they weren't getting the signal from the brain to go. I knew I was going to have to be careful with him coming back because he's all-in. The way he plays, it's all-in. Just give him a chance to catch his breath."
This isn't unexpected, as Werth sat out 75 games while recovering from left wrist surgery then jumped back from a short rehab playing at full speed every day. In that sense, it's like he's still in the middle of Spring Training, working his way into game shape.
"That's why Spring Training is six weeks," Werth said. "You can't do anything to get in shape for baseball other than play baseball."
Izturis says he feels at home with new team
HOUSTON -- Cesar Izturis ran the gauntlet of introductions and interviews with his new club Tuesday afternoon in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, noting that it felt a little more familiar than you might think.
Izturis has played with several of his new teammates, from Mark DeRosa and Michael Gonzalez to Edwin Jackson and Jayson Werth, at various points during his 12-year Major League career.
"I've played with those guys," said Izturis, who will wear No. 6 with the Nationals. "To come in here, you feel at home."
The veteran infielder said he was "surprised and excited" when he found out Washington had claimed him off waivers, and he'll fill whatever role manager Davey Johnson puts him in. More than anything, he enjoyed the idea of going from a struggling Brewers club (49-59) to the first-place Nationals.
"It was great," Izturis said. "They're in first place for a reason. I think they want to win, and that's the bottom line. Win games. It's what you're here for."