Tyler Clippard said signing Rafael Soriano to replace Drew Storen as closer sent "the wrong message." (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard had strong words about the organization's handling of struggling former closer Drew Storen, who was optioned to Triple-A on Friday.
Clippard was critical of the front office's signing of Rafael Soriano in the offseason following Storen's blown save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, saying the move sent "the wrong message" and "was handled very poorly by the organization."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson defended the demotion by saying "This is what's best for him."
"I think there's a lot of things that led to this that could've been prevented," Clippard said, holding back tears at one point. "You know, you basically send a guy a message this offseason, for having one bad game, that he's not the guy for the job. He's only human. I mean, it's going to get to anybody.
"I can understand, you know, after the devastation that happened last year, maybe trying to make a change and say: 'Hey, we're going to bring in somebody that we think can get it done in that big situation," Clippard added. "It's just the wrong message to send, I think. But at the end of the day, that's what happened and that's where we're at. It's up to me, it's up to Drew, it's up to everyone in this locker room to pick ourselves up and move forward."
Storen, who blew a two-run ninth-inning lead against the Cardinals with Washington on the verge of reaching the NLCS, has posted a 5.95 ERA in 42.1 innings as a setup man this season. He pitched to a 2.96 ERA during his first three seasons, converting 52 of 60 save opportunities.
After signing a two-year, $28-million deal, Soriano has converted 26 of his 30 opportunities and posted a 3.05 ERA this season.