During the 2011 and 2012 season, Drew Storen was a true anchor in the Washington Nationals bullpen. Over 110 appearances, he posted 2.64 ERA with 47 saves, and at times looked like one of the most dominant late inning relievers in the game. Unfortunately, though, that hasn't carried over into 2013, and following Washington's doubleheader split against the New York Mets on Friday, Storen was optioned to Triple-A.
Perhaps not stunning news given his 5.95 ERA in 43 innings, but it still didn't sit well with teammate and fellow reliever Tyler Clippard. Clippard doesn't deny that Storen is struggling or that the demotion won't serve him well over the long haul, but he does have some theories as to why Storen never could get on track this season. He wasn't shy in sharing those thoughts late Friday night, and in particular focused on the signing of new closer Rafael Soriano.
“I think there’s a lot of things that led to this that could’ve been prevented. 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."
The bad game is in reference to Storen's ugly blown save in Game 5 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals last season.
Here's more from Clippard:
“He hasn’t had to deal with a lot of adversity. He came up and had unbelievable stuff. He had success right away. Came in last year, coming off of a surgery, and pitched huge games for us in a 98 win season. Picked me up when I was struggling in September. Picked our team up in the playoffs. Had one bad game. Eight months later, you get to a point where he’s struggling and you turn the page on him, you send him down. It’s not necessarily turning the page on him because I think he needs to go down and regroup, get out of this environment, take a deep breath and regather himself. So I think it’s going to help him.
“I just think it’s been handled very poorly. And it could’ve gone either way. I know the same message was sent to me. And I’ve been through adversity over my career, you know? So I know how to handle it. You know, this is a tough day. He’s going to be part of this organization for a long time, I hope because he’s good. And we need him. But if he goes somewhere else, he’s going to be great for them."
It sounds like a case of hurt feelings more than anything on Clippard's part, which is understandable. He admits he's close with Storen, and as a reliever himself it has to weigh on him because he realizes how delicate his standing is. Relievers tend to rise quick and fall even quicker, though there are exceptions such as Mariano Rivera. Some who fall do rise again, but many don't. I'm not sure which side Drew Storen will ultimately fall on, but the opportunity is always there because bullpen spots are always opening up.
I also think there were hurt feelings given Storen's circumstances on Friday. Prior to the Friday's doubleheader, Storen arrived to the ballpark “sick as a dog” and with a 102 degree fever as noted by his father, sports radio host Mark Patrick, on Twitter.
Storen’s condition prompted manager Davey Johnson to announce his reliever was unavailable for either game barring a “dramatic recovery.” Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that Storen actually required an IV during the opener, which doesn't indicate improvement. Johnson didn't seem to care, though, still calling on Storen in the ninth inning with Washington trailing 6-0.
It was essentially a mop up assignment for the scuffling right-hander, which he reportedly told bullpen coach Jimmy Lett he could handle, but he just didn’t have it. The Mets would end up tacking on five more runs, with three charged to Storen on Ike Davis’ three-run homer.
All things considered, it was a no-win situation for Storen. Given his struggles, he really couldn’t afford to turn the ball down when offered the opportunity to prove himself and get back on track. But he clearly was in no condition to be pitching, regardless of what he said. That the ultimate result of Storen going back to Triple-A is tough to take, but it's also the business of baseball. No one said it was always fair or that there were always happy endings. Though at least for Storen there's still a good chance it will be.
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