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Drew Storen will open the season on the DL but expects a quick return.
Storen will be placed on the 15-day disabled list this evening with right elbow inflammation, but the move can be back-dated to March 26 because he hasn't appeared in a game since. Thus, he'll be eligible to return as soon as next Tuesday, and he believes he can back in uniform shortly after that date, sometime in mid-April.
"Yeah, that seems about dead-on," he said. "I think that's pretty accurate."
Storen threw off a bullpen mound at Nationals Park this morning, ramping up his effort and throwing a few breaking balls for the first time since he was shut down three weeks ago with elbow discomfort.
The Nationals will decide by the end of the day where Storen goes next, either back to Viera, Fla., to continue his rehab at the club's extended spring training complex, or perhaps to one of the organization's minor-league affiliates to begin a rehab assignment.
How close to game-ready is he after not facing live hitters since March 7?
"I feel like I'm getting there," Storen said. "Every day is a step in the right direction. I think today is really the true test of where I'm at, but I think I'm getting there. It's pretty amazing how every day it gets so much better. Because it's really not a pain thing. It's a strength thing. It was just weak from taking that time off."
With Storen sidelined, manager Davey Johnson plans to use Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez as his fill-in closers. Given his vast experience closing games for the Astros and Phillies, Lidge figures to get the first crack at pitching the ninth inning, though Rodriguez dazzled this spring with his combination of velocity and control.
That depth leaves the Nationals confident about their chances entering the season, even if their regular closer won't be with them.
"Obviously it's tough to lose Drew Storen," second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "But we have Brad Lidge, an unbelievable closer, and he's proven it over his entire career."