After Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman pulled Drew Storen from a game with two outs in an inning late last season because he had been struggling on the mound and the manager liked another matchup better he was asked if he was concerned about the young closer's confidence. The response was essentially that if his confidence could be shaken that easily, then maybe the closer's role wasn't for him, but then Riggleman said that if he knew Storen, who's never lacked for confidence in his own skills, at least publically, he would be telling himself that it's a learning process and another lesson on the way to becoming a major-league-ready closer.
Storen struggled again this Spring while working on getting back to focusing on his fastball, and before his last outing, he seemed to be having a hard time on the hill. As an anonymous scout told Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore yesterday in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "Drew Storen’s stuff ‘is still there'", it's not a case of Storen losing his stuff, he's still got the mid-90's fastball and though he gave up a HR on a slider this past weekend, it's still a devastating pitch at times. "'Right now,'" the scout told Mr. Kilgore, "'...it’s about confidence for him. He got up [to the majors] last season and had nothing but success. He just needs to get back to knowing, ‘I’m going to get these guys out.’"
The Nationals are a young team, and though their players have earned the positions they currently occupy on the roster and the field, there's still learning to do at the major league level as the team builds its core for the days when they will be competitive. Ian Desmond's another example.
In spite of the fact that he's been forced into the leadoff role on a roster that doesn't have a prototypical leadoff man, and though he's started the season 0 for 13, the Nationals, as MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote yesterday in an article entitled, "Nats won't ask Desmond to change approach", in which Mr. Ladson quotes Nats' Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein saying, "'He is not a prototypical leadoff guy, because he has a chance to hit the ball into the gap or hit home runs. We don't want him taking good pitches and all that stuff. We want him to be more of the hitter that he is."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said much the same in an interview before the Nationals' season opener in an appearance on MLB Network Radio when he said, "We're not going to change his approach, he's not going to be the prototypical leadoff hitter we're going to ask to see 5-6 pitchers per at bat." The Nats aren't going to base any roster decisions on the first three games, and they're not going to move Desmond out of the leadoff role over the results during the first series of the season. Would it help Desmond's confidence to get his first hit? Of course.
But it won't happen today, as Jerry Hairston, Jr.'s expected to get a start at short. And the veterans on the Nats' bench, as Mr. Rizzo explained in an interview last night on 106.7 the FAN in DC, as recorded in Washington Post writer Dan Steinberg's article entitled, "Mike Rizzo explains his bench", are there, "...to teach these good young prospect players how to be Major Leaguers." The Nats young players aren't lacking for confidence, but they have to learn how to be major leaguers whether they're closing or leading off, and the Nats' general manager thinks the veterans he's put around the young core on the roster will help the process going forward. How confident are you in Rizzo's decisions? How confident are you that the Nats' '09 1st Round pick is the closer of the future? How confident are you that Desi's slump won't last?