MLB

Nats' Johnson sticking with Rodriguez as closer

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WASHINGTON (AP)

Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson wants everyone to know that Henry Rodriguez is still the team's closer. Oh, and Johnson would rather not be asked about Rodriguez anymore.

''Is he my closer? Yes, he's my closer,'' Johnson said before the Nationals played the San Diego Padres on Monday night. ''I have all the confidence in the world.''

On Sunday, in Washington's 9-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Rodriguez blew a save for the third time in 11 chances and fell to 1-3 with a 4.70 ERA. He walked two batters with two outs to load the bases, then gave up Joey Votto's game-ending grand slam.

Before Monday's game, Johnson was asked a question by a reporter who noted that Rodriguez has been much more effective at home - where opponents are 1 for 24 against him, with a 0.042 slugging percentage - than on the road - where opponents are 8 for 31 with a 0.484 slugging percentage.

''He's been outstanding. He had an outstanding spring. I'm not going to answer these questions every time there's a little blip on the radar screen,'' Johnson said. ''So don't be asking those questions to me no more. If there's something that's going to change on that, I'll volunteer it, OK?''

Rodriguez, who regularly throws pitches at 100 mph, was forced into the closer's role this season because Drew Storen, who saved 43 games last season, had an operation on his elbow in April, and replacement Brad Lidge went on the disabled list and needed abdominal surgery.

Lidge, who began his throwing program by tossing a ball 60 feet Monday, said he watched the loss to the Reds a day earlier.

''Anyone who has pitched the ninth inning has been there. You just want to be able to yell out advice on the fly, but you can't do it,'' Lidge said.

Asked what he did scream at the TV, Lidge joked: ''Get the guys out before Votto gets up!''

''I really like Henry a lot, and I'm very confident that he's going to be just fine. But he's young, and he's young in this role. And those are two things that are extremely difficult right now,'' Lidge said. ''To be a great closer, you have to have great control and great stuff. And he's got great stuff, and at times he's got great control. But I think one of the hardest things to learn is, his stuff doesn't have to be as good as it is. So that's something obviously we'll talk about - taking your foot off the gas pedal.''

NOTES: With C Wilson Ramos out with knee ligament damage, C Sandy Leon made his major league debut on Monday. Leon, called up from Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday, struck out in his first at-bat. ... In a rehab start at Triple-A Syracuse on Monday, RHP Chien-Ming Wang threw eight-plus innings, allowing four earned runs and 11 hits with one walk, one strikeout and one hit batter. ''I saw him pitch, and he looked awful good. ... The question really comes down to: Is he polished off enough to come in and replace one of our starters and give us the same type of effort?'' Johnson said. ''That was a big step in the right direction. It depends how he recovers from that, I would think.'' Johnson said the decision on a roster move involving Wang would be made by GM Mike Rizzo, but that the team won't go to a six-man starting rotation. ... Johnson said OF Michael Morse is on pace to return when interleague play begins June 8 at Boston.

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Howard Fendrich can be followed at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Tagged: Reds, Nationals, Brad Lidge, Henry Rodriguez

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