Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson reiterated this afternoon that 24-year-old '09 1st Round pick Drew Storen won't just jump right back into the closer's role with the Nats when he returns from the rehab assignment which started tonight when Storen pitched for the High-A Potomac Nationals. The right-handed reliever, who saved 43 games last season while posting a 2.75 ERA and 3.32 FIP with 20 walks (2.39 BB/9) and 74 K's (8.84 K/9) in 73 games and 75.1 IP, had surgery to remove a bone fragment from his elbow earlier this Spring. Storen returned to competitive action Thursday night with a what Washington post writer James Wanger reported was an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 inning to start the P-Nats game against the visiting Frederick Keys (BAL):
Storen, a 1-2-3 inning, 8 pitches: a pop out, fly out to center & 3-1 groundout. Fastball around 92. Slider 85. Threw one curveball.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) July 5, 2012
Storen spoke to the media after the game, explaining that his velocity wasn't yet where he needs it to be to pitch in the ninth inning in the majors, but, he said, "It's there still. And I think that's kind of the biggest thing, is you kind of have those stepping stones and each outing it will ideally go up and like I said, for me it was more about command and movement and I felt like my sinker had good sink to it. It's about missing barrels, and if I was getting barreled then I'd be a little more concerned, but I felt good with where my command was and the ball was moving, so I think that's big."
Storen's scheduled to make three more rehab starts and then hopefully return when the Nationals resume play after the All-Star Break. His goal over the next few starts he explained, is to stay consistent and work on his command as he builds up arm strength. Asked about Davey Johnson's comments about him working in a set-up role, Storen told reporters, "I'm preparing to close, regardless. And I know coming in the plan is to have me set up when I first get back, which needs to happen. That's just part of the acclimation process and it's just a matter of kind of getting your feet wet at each different level."
The reliever explained that he was treating his rehab starts like Spring Training, and he said, "If that was my first appearance in Spring Training, I'd be very happy about it." Though Storen's preparing to close, he said he understands the situation he'll be returning to. "I know when I get there I've got to work my way back in that bullpen," the reliever said, "because those guys have been throwing all year and know what they're doing."
"There's no room for error in that situtation," Storen said of the ninth inning, "Especially with how well we're playing. So I get it 100%." Storen went on to explain that he expects to throw every other day as he works his way back, but noted that they have time to work with depending on how his body reacts to returning to the mound.
• Listen to the full audio of Storen's post game presser via @PNats42:
Drew Storen talks with the media after his outing tonight at Pfitzner Stadiumsoundcloud.com/potomacnationa…— Potomac Nationals (@PNats42) July 6, 2012