In the midst of a frustratingly unsuccessful season that has left him hearing more “boo’s” than “Drew’s” from Nats fans, Drew Storen of the Washington Nationals has been optioned to the minor leagues.
Storen saved 43 games in 2011, and pitched for a 2.37 ERA in 2012. But in 2013, the pitcher who was once one of the most successful and highly touted relievers in the Nationals bullpen finds himself with a 5.40 ERA, five blown saves in seven opportunities, and a ticket to Triple-A Syracuse in his hand instead of a major-league baseball.
After the second game of the Nationals double-header with the New York Mets, manager Davey Johnson announced that Storen would be sent down to make room on the roster for Ryan Mattheus.
Though Storen would have preferred to continue to work on his struggles at the major-league level, Johnson thought it would benefit him more to go to the minors where he will be able to regain confidence and command of the baseball before returning to the Nationals pitcher arsenal.
“He wants to work it out here and I understand that,” Johnson said. “But he just needs to get right mentally and mechanically because I need him. It’s that simple. I don’t need him where he’s at, where he kind of at times fights the situation. He’s too important to this ball club going forward. He needs to just get right, and get back. … He’s a big weapon, and if he can get squared away I’ll get him back.”
Johnson pondered whether Storen’s demotion from closer after the off-season acquisition of Rafael Soriano affected his mentality so much that it impeded his ability to be effective on the mound. But Johnson flatly said that no matter what Storen’s mental concerns were, he needed to be able to “push all that aside and go down there and do what he’s capable of doing.”
Tyler Clippard had an emotional conversation with the media following the announcement of Storen’s being optioned, as his friend and former roommate was unavailable to be interviewed. In his candid comments, Clippard said that he felt the acquisition of Soriano did affect Storen’s confidence, and he chastised the Nationals organization for their handling of the situation.
“I think there’s a lot of things that led to this that could’ve been prevented,” Clippard said, according to the MLB blog, The Rocket. “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, you know? I mean, it’s going to get to anybody.”
The “one game” Clippard was referring to was Game 5 of the NLDS when Storen blew the game for the Nationals, eliminating them from the postseason. Though the Nationals voiced support for Storen after the heart-breaking incident, their hiring of veteran closer Soriano sent a different message, and Storen hasn’t thrown like the same pitcher since.
Clippard said the organization treated Storen’s situation “very poorly,” and that the news of Storen’s final demotion made Friday a “tough day.” However, he did agree that a trip to the minors would be beneficial for his teammate.
“It’s not necessarily turning the page on him because I think he needs to go down and regroup, and get out of this environment, take a deep breath and regather himself,” Clippard said. “So I think it’s going to help him.”
Johnson echoed the best wishes for Storen, saying that this first encounter with adversity for the 25-year-old pitcher should not hinder his ability to make a major-league return.
“He’s never had to deal with failure, and this is kind of a sharp lesson up here dealing with failure,” Johnson said. “We could have done different things with different players, but I think this is going to be best served for him to go down there and get it right, and I’ll get him back.
“This is what’s best for him. He probably will have a hard time coming to grips with that but it is the best thing for him.”
Storen, who has shown to be a likeable guy off the field, has a wide fan base that will certainly be hoping this time away from the big leagues will in fact be the best thing for his career. In the meantime, all those fans can do is wait for Storen to come to overcome the first big obstacle of his career.