With the Washington Nationals getting clobbered 6-0 in the first half of their day-night doubleheader against the New York Mets on Friday, manager Davey Johnson turned to struggling former closer Drew Storen in the ninth inning to handle mop up duties. Unfortunately, the assignment didn't go smoothly for Storen. With two inherited runners already on base, he would immediately allow three consecutive hits, including a three-run homer off the bat of Ike Davis. That made the score 11-0, which ended up being the final, and pushed Storen's season ERA to 5.95.
Not a pretty outing, and certainly not good numbers overall for Storen, but according to Storen's father, sports radio host Mark Patrick, his son never should have been put in that position to begin with since he's currently battling a nasty case of the flu.
102 degree temperature, sicker than a dog...Let's make him wear it!
— Mark Patrick (@mpos) July 26, 2013
According to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, Johnson was well aware of Storen's condition before the afternoon game, even mentioning that his reliever would be unavailable for either game “unless he has a dramatic recovery.” When asked about it afterwards, however, Johnson seemed to contradict his original response while defending his decision to use the obviously ailing right-hander in a tough position.
Davey said Drew Storen "got to feeling a little better." Said Storen told bullpen coach Jim Lett he could go.
— Amanda Comak (@acomak) July 26, 2013
It should come as no surprise that Storen said he was fine to pitch. You won't find many major league pitchers not willing to take the ball when given the opportunity. But that doesn't mean sending him out there was the right or sensible thing for Johnson to do. There's quite a gap between "feeling a little better" and "dramatic recovery." If Johnson knew Storen was that sick, which he obviously did based on his original comments, then why put him through that?
Obviously, the circumstances of the game played into Johnson's decision. Getting blown out in the first half of a doubleheader is a worst case scenario and makes conserving the key members of your bullpen a necessity. But Storen was actually only the third reliever Johnson used in the game, and it could have been two had Ryan Mattheus not needed 43 pitches to record four outs. In other words, the bullpen had been spared pretty well, and with baseball now allowing a 26th player for doubleheaders, you'd think they would have enough hands on deck.
Apparently they did not, or perhaps Storen's recovery was closer to dramatic than anyone has led on so far. We won't know for awhile since Storen was unavailable for comment after game one. But regardless of that, it's easy to understand why Mark Patrick would be protective of his son. That was a rough experience and a true no-win situation for a once dominant pitcher hoping to regain his form.
Big BLS H/N: For The Win