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Nats 2nd half storylines: Deadline deals?

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Nats 2nd half storylines: Deadline deals?

The Nationals open tomorrow what promises to be the most compelling second half to a season since the franchise arrived in town in 2005, owners of the NL's best record but saddled with several major questions that need to be answered.

Today we're counting down the five most significant storylines to the remainder of the Nationals' season. Next up is storyline No. 3: Whether GM Mike Rizzo tries to bolster his roster before the July 31 trade deadline...

The Nationals have frequently been active around the trade deadline. They've just usually spent late July trying to move veterans to contending clubs in exchange for prospects.

Not so this summer. For the first time in seven years, they have no interest in selling at the July 31 deadline. But do they have interest in buying?

Perhaps not as much as you might expect for a team smack dab in the middle of a pennant race. Look up and down the Nationals' roster. There aren't very many obvious holes, certainly fewer than any other contending team in the National League, especially once Jayson Werth and Drew Storen return from the disabled list.

That leadoff-hitting center fielder Rizzo has coveted for years? There's no room for him, not with an outfield of Werth, Bryce Harper and Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche at first base.

What about bullpen help? The Nationals might have too many relievers as it is, with some quality arm (Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen or Michael Gonzalez) likely to lose his roster spot once Storen returns.

There has been some recent discussion of adding another starting pitcher, someone who could take over the fifth spot in the rotation for now and ultimately take over Stephen Strasburg's spot when the ace is shut down as planned in September. Is there a chance the Nationals could make such a move? Yes, there's a chance. But it's probably not as great as many would like to believe.

The addition of another starter would force Ross Detwiler back to the bullpen at least temporarily, which isn't necessarily a move the Nats want to make. Detwiler would rejoin the rotation once Strasburg is shut down, but at that point, the club might need a fifth starter only three or four times thanks to a couple of September off-days.

Given all that, the Nationals front office seems reluctant to go out and get another big-name starting pitcher, especially if that pitcher comes with a hefty price tag. One high-ranking club official said this week the organization will not raid its farm system in an attempt to rent a player for two months.

That doesn't mean Rizzo might not pull off a minor trade or two, perhaps for some bench help or even a veteran catcher who could help take some of the load off Jesus Flores.

But at this point, a major move on July 31 doesn't appear to be in the Nationals' plans.

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Nats RHP Barrett suffers major setback in recovery from Tommy John

Nats RHP Barrett suffers major setback in recovery from Tommy John

Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett has suffered a significant setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

While rehabbing in Viera, Fla. on Friday, Barrett broke his right elbow. He will now see Dr. James Andrews on Monday to have his elbow fracture repaired and his ulnar collateral ligament examined.

Barrett had his UCL repaired last September by Andrews. He is eight months into the recovery, which generally takes 12 to 18 months. Barrett had at one point expressed hope of returning to the Nationals bullpen this September, but that is now in question.

Barrett also had bone chips removed from his elbow in September. And this past winter he had bone chips removed from his ankle. It has been a tough year for the right-hander, who broke onto the scene as a rookie in 2014.

Barrett, 28, has pitched in 90 total games for the Nationals. He posted a 2.66 ERA in 50 games in 2014. In 2015, Barrett held a 4.60 ERA through 40 outings.

The Nationals announced Barrett's elbow fracture on Sunday afternoon.

[RELATED: Nats' Ryan Zimmerman: 'I think I'm good to go']

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Drew Storen designated for assignment by Toronto

Drew Storen designated for assignment by Toronto

Former Washington Nationals pitcher Drew Storen has been designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays, thus likely ending his brief tenure with the team.

Storen was traded to Toronto by the Nationals in excahnge for outfielder Ben Revere in January. He has struggled this season with a 6.21 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched.

The right-handed reliever was a reliable pitcher for Washington, but his career with the Nationals was marred by the ninth inning collapse against the St. Loius Cardinals in the 2012 playoffs. Handed a two-run lead in the ninth inning, Storen came within one strike of the win. Instead, he blew the save giving up four runs.

Storen eventually recovered, but Mike Rizzo's faith in him never did. In 2015, the Nationals traded for Jonathan Papelbon despite a strong season by Storen as closer.

Now perhaps the same thing could be playing out this year for Papelbon as the Nationals target New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.

RELATED: How Dusty's holy water helped Revere vs. Padres

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Zimmerman after minor league rehab games: 'I think I'm good to go'

Zimmerman after minor league rehab games: 'I think I'm good to go'

Having landed five hits already in three minor league rehab games, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is on track to return to the Nationals on Tuesday when they hit the road to play at the Cleveland Indians.

The 12-year MLB veteran believes that by Tuesday he'll not only be ready to return, but to play every day.

"I think I'm good to go," Zimmerman said. "I feel good. I didn't take that much time off, but it was good to get down there and get some at-bats. I'll be ready to come help this team out in the second half."

Zimmerman, who is recovering from a left rib cage strain, played Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the Single-A Potomac Nationals. He went 5-for-12 with a home run, five RBI, a double and four runs scored.

The Nats wanted the 31-year-old to play three games and he came out of them feeling no complications from his injury.

"Everything feels good," Zimmerman said. "When I come back, I will be ready to go."

Zimmerman has been on the disabled list since July 7. He sustained the injury the day before during an at-bat against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Zimmerman is hitting .221/.284/.402 with 12 homers and 38 RBI in 74 games this season.

[RELATED: How Dusty's holy water helped Revere vs. Padres]

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