Who will be the odd man out in the Nats bullpen?

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

Lost in the Nationals’ 5-1 defeat against the Pirates on Tuesday night was news that reliever Ryan Mattheus, who has been out since May after breaking his hand while punching a locker, will in all likelihood return to the team on Friday, according to manager Davey Johnson.

The Nationals are allowed to add a 26th man to the roster for their doubleheader against the Mets, and Johnson said that it will be Mattheus. But what the team decides to do after the game will be far more interesting.

Johnson has finally reached a level of comfort with his bullpen. He has regularly praised left-handers Fernando Abad and Ian Krol, as well as long reliever Ross Ohlendorf. But when Mattheus returns, someone will have to go. Here are a few of the possibilities:

Taylor Jordan: After Tuesday night’s start, Johnson said that Jordan had earned a spot in the rotation. The 24-year-old is 0-3, but he has a 3.68 ERA through five starts and has improved every time out. The problem is that after undergoing Tommy John surgery in Sept. 2011, he is also on an innings-limit. General manager Mike Rizzo refused to specify how many innings Jordan has left, but the Nationals might decide to let him reach that limit at Double-A Harrisburg. They could then slide Ohlendorf into Jordan’s spot in the rotation while Ross Detwiler continues to rehab a stiff back.

Krol: Krol, like Jordan, has absolutely earned his spot on the big league club. He has allowed just four earned runs in 16 1/3 innings of work with a 2.20 ERA. But like Jordan, he is young (22 years old) and would not be distraught by a return trip to the Minors. Johnson loves having two lefties out of the ‘pen, but if for whatever reason he decides that he can make do with one, the Nationals might opt to demote Krol rather than risk losing 27-year-old Abad.

Drew Storen: This is the most unlikely option of them all, as 25-year-olds with closer experience are incredibly hard to find. But if Rizzo and Johnson decide that they want to add a left-handed bat off the bench before the July 31 trade deadline, Storen is one of the few movable pieces that could help them make that happen. He’s been rattled for much of this season, but he still has the upside and youth that make him a valuable bargaining chip.

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