WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 02: Drew Storen #22 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park on May 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
"I think everybody in the community wants Drew [Storen] to be the closer and I want that, but he's 23-24-years-old and I don't want him to run out there four days in a row and sometimes even three days in a row, depending on what the pitches are, you know, I want to preserve him a little bit..." - Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman
If there was some concern about the Nats' second '09 1st Round pick Drew Storen this Spring, as he allowed 24 hits and 16 runs, 14 earned in 11 games and 11.1 IP in which struck out 14 and walked just two in Grapefruit League action, that's all pretty much disappeared 28 games into the 2011 campaign. The 23-year-old right-hander's saved six games in six opportunities thus far, surrendering just two runs, one earned and one HR in 15 games and 16.0 IP. A 0.56 ERA (3.41 FIP), 2 walks (2.81 BB/9), 12 K's (6.75 K/9), a .182 BABIP. Storen's just fine, and though the Nationals are reluctant to call him the closer, when the ninth inning comes around and a lead needs to be protected, the Nats' Manager's going with his right-hander.
The former Stanford Cardinal closer was on MLB Network Radio's "Power Alley" with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy this afternoon to talk about the Nats and his season so far...
• Drew Storen on his 2011 Season So Far:
Drew Storen: "I'm really, obviously, happy with how I've started and there's a lot of different things that go into that. I can't take all the credit. I have great defense behind me, I've been using them and they've been making great plays, so. I worked on some things in Spring Training and made a lot of adjustments. I got hit around quite a bit in Spring Training, but I wasn't worried cause I knew that I was trying new things and I was able to work on my fastball command a little bit, and just kind of commanding within the strike zone because last year I threw lot of strikes, but I didn't necessarily throw quality strikes and I felt like I got away with some pitches just because guys hadn't seen me that much. Now that guys have seen me for a couple times, they're aware of my approach, so I have to make sure to make the right pitch. Especially when you're throwing in that ninth inning, guys are really picky, and you really can't make a mistake cause they'll make you pay for it."
• Without giving away "top secret" info, what changes did you make?:
Drew Storen: "It's funny, cause it's really as far from 'top secret' as possible cause it's really logical stuff. The main thing for me was just kind of throwing for the target. I kind of just tried to 'out-stuff' guys last year, and that's kind of something that I could do before and when you get to the big league level you can't do that. They don't really care how hard it is and they don't care how much the slider moves, you still have to make a quality pitch with it. So for me, it's just about hitting the target and just throwing a quality strike and having quality misses too. When you're missing down and out, that's a lot better obviously than air-mailing one way up and in. Sometimes you can leave one up and in, but there's just a lot and for me, it was just kind of concentrating on throwing to the target and not really worrying about stuff and just letting the stuff take care of itself."
• Wilson Ramos vs Pudge Rodriguez?:
Drew Storen: "It's funny cause you can see Ramos is learning a lot from Pudge and Pudge is awesome to throw to. I learn a lot from Pudge just cause the game that Pudge calls is so advanced and for me to learn that last year and to really start understanding it more this year is great. You can tell Ramos is doing the same thing and, you know, last night, I missed a spot, and [Ramos] came out, and was like, 'Hey, just trust me and stick with me here,' and he knows his hitters and that's what's really impressive because he is a young guy and he doesn't have nearly quite the time that Pudge does and he still takes pride in knowing the hitters and knowing what I want to do with the guy and we're all on the same page which is always a big help, especially when you're coming in late in the game."
• Facing Buster Posey and Pat Burrell last night, what are you thinking?:
Drew Storen: "I actually faced Buster all the way back in college, I faced him in the College World Series, so he's one of those guys that definitely know what I'm trying to do, and I went to a full count with him and I tried to challenge him with my best fastball and kind of just left it up a little bit, but it's a tough spot cause he's got the power to take me deep if I make the wrong pitch. Burrell coming up, I don't think I've ever faced him before, so I was trying to work the outside corner a little bit and I ended up kind of running a 1-0 sinker over the inside of the plate and that's when Ramos came out and said, 'Hey, stick with me here, trust me,' and I just ended throwing a fastball at him and got him to hit it to [Ian Desmond] so it worked out alright."
• Werth in D.C.?:
Drew Storen: "You know what, he's really been unbelievable. He's kind of brought a fresh new attitude to the clubhouse and it's a combination of things. It's guys like him, Matt Stairs and Alex Cora and all these veteran guys that come in and have solid, solid big league careers with winning experience. And just kind of the combination of those guys coming in, it's really changed the attitude, it's not a 'Hey, we hope we go out and win tonight,' it's we expect to win and the kind of sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves, that's just not the attitude we're going to take this year and we're going to sit there and grind it out every day and that's kind of the big thing they've brought and it's really made things fun."
• Have you seen a notable difference defensively?:
Drew Storen: "Absolutely. There's a lot of plays that are being made this year that are unbelievable, and part of that [is] Adam LaRoche. He picks the ball over there and he makes it look easy and it's unbelievable to watch him play. And for me to go in in the ninth in a tough spot, it helps out a lot, because I'm not afraid to pitch to contact cause I know that somebody's going to make the play. Like Desi made a nice jumping catch on a laser that [Aaron] Rowand hit off me last night. So it's like, just to get those nice plays, it helps you because it kind of eases your mind going, 'Well, I don't have to miss the bat here,' so it's kind of nice and that's a huge help and it's definitely something we've noticed."