Could the Nationals really send Drew Storen to the minors?

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Aaron asked earlier today just how much spring stats actually matter. The general consensus is that they shouldn’t hold much weight, especially with more established players. For instance, the Orioles aren’t going to cut Luke Scott just because he entered tonight’s action with an .067 batting average over his first 30 at-bats this spring. They have the past to tell them that he’s probably going to be just fine when the games count.

But what about a former first-round pick reliever who has less than one year of major league experience under his belt?

Keep in mind, this is an unlikely scenario, but after Drew Storen gave up three runs — including a pair of home runs — in one inning against the Cardinals earlier today, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post presented an interesting scenario where the 23-year-old right-hander could begin the season in the minor leagues.

Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez are out of options. The Nationals signed Todd Coffey to a $1.35 million contract this offseason. Sean Burnett, dating back to last year and continuing this spring, has been awesome. Doug Slaten has an option remaining, but he and Burnett are the only left-handed relievers in camp.

There’s five of seven relief spots. Two remain for Storen, Broderick and Gaudin. Keeping both Broderick, 24, and Gaudin, 27, would make for an awkward bullpen composition – both are long-relief or back-of-the-rotation types. But Broderick, as a Rule 5 pick, would have to stay on the 25-man roster all season in order for the Nationals to keep him. And Gaudin would have to pass through waivers if the Nationals tried to send him to the minors, something one scout said will not happen.

With them both pitching so well this spring, the Nationals will have a tough decision to make. The surest way to hold on to all their talent would be send one of their relievers with options – Storen or Slaten – to Class AAA Syracuse to start the season.

And this wouldn’t just be about options or pausing his service time. Storen, who entered spring training as the favorite for the closer role, has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 14 hits over just 6 1/3 innings during exhibition action.

While I find this scenario logical and perhaps even plausible, most (including Kilgore) believe that Storen will be with the Nationals on Opening Day. And that’s the way it should be. Unless Storen is hiding an injury or has completely lost his mechanics, it’s unlikely that a handful of appearances will change the way the Nationals feel about him. At the very worst, Jim Riggleman may just use Tyler Clippard and/or Sean Burnett for early save chances.

Adam Eaton sustains leg injury after tripping over first base

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Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton was carried off the field after stumbling over first base on Friday night. In the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the Mets, Eaton appeared to catch his ankle on the bag as he ran out an infield single, suffering a leg injury on the fall. He was unable to put pressure on his left leg after the play and required assistance by two of the Nationals’ athletic trainers as he exited the field.

Eaton is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday, but Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker told reporters that it “doesn’t look too good.” It’s the first significant leg injury the outfielder has sustained since 2014, when he went on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. He’ll likely be replaced by Michael Taylor in center field for the next couple of games, though that could be a temporary fix as the Nationals seek a better solution during Eaton’s recovery process.

Madison Bumgarner likely sidelined through the All-Star break

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It’s been just over a week since Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner got a serious scare after a nasty dirt bike accident. He escaped with bruised ribs and a Grade 2 strain of his left shoulder AC joint, but there was some speculation that the injuries would cause a significant, if not permanent, setback in the southpaw’s career. Thankfully, things aren’t looking quite so bleak today. Not only will Bumgarner not require surgery, but he could return as soon as the week following the All-Star break, the Giants said Friday.

Of course, that timeline is wholly dependent on how smoothly the recovery process goes, so nothing is set in stone yet. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic estimates 2-3 months of rest and rehab, including “two months before he can get back on the mound and then another three to four weeks of throwing and rehab starts before he’s big league-ready.” It’s a long and laborious schedule, but still looks much better than any surgical alternative.

Prior to the accident, Bumgarner was working on a solid start to the 2017 season. He maintained a 3.00 ERA, 1.3 BB/9 and 9.3 SO/9 through 27 innings with the club, though his average 1.75 runs of support per start fed into an 0-3 record.