One day after undergoing a half-hour surgery to remove a small bone fragment from his right elbow, Nationals closer Drew Storen arrived at Nationals Park, his arm in a sling and his spirits high. He felt relieved to have the procedure behind him. Mostly, he was still trying to get used to life with one arm. “Putting on socks is not exactly easy,” Storen said.
Storen did not know exactly how long he would be sidelined, but he guessed he could return in roughly two months, around the all-star break. By the nature of his personality, Storen eschews patience, which is what he will need in order to return without setbacks. He vowed he will, using the surgery as a way to change his outlook.
“When I come back, I want to be me,” Storen said. “I want to be like I was last year. That’s my main goal.
“It’s going to be brutal. But at the same time, that drive is kind of good. The big thing for me, I’ve learned all this year is big picture type stuff. You kind of put that goal – I want to be back this year and be me. That’s kind of my main thing. It’s something little you’ve got to do every day. That doesn’t really go with my personality of getting after it, max effort. But you know what? It’s all about growing up a little bit. So that’s going to be a good thing for me.”
Storen, whom Manager Davey Johnson has called “a throwaholic,” said he will not change his routine once he returns. The fact that tests showed his elbow structurally intact aside from the bone chip gives him confidence that his arm can withstand his workload.
“Knowing what my arm’s gone through this year, I’m going to have to tone it down a little bit,” Storen said. “But at the same time, I have to do the same things to be successful. So it’s kind of finding a happy medium.”
Storen said he never felt any pain in his elbow, but that “something changed” this spring training. He would not have done anything differently in his treatment once he felt soreness early in March.
“I thought we did the right thing in our approach,” Storen said. “I didn’t feel the pain when I came back initially. I think it was the right thing to do – just trying to throw through it. I didn’t think it was going to be anything that severe. But I definitely did the right in not trying to throw another bullpen or something like that after I felt it.”
Knowing Storen will miss the next 50 to 60 games or so, Johnson will not change his strategy in the ninth of alternating Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez as closers. Lidge and Rodriguez have each pitched the ninth inning of a Nationals victory twice. Lidge will move back to his old role, in which he saved 223 games over 10 years.
“I don’t feel good that it happened because Drew is hurt,” Lidge said. “For me, it’s an exciting role. I really enjoy it. I think I just kind of go back to some things I’ve done the last however many years to doing what I need to do to prepare for that role. I think right now, we’re more just sorry for Drew. The one thing we all feel is that we have enough depth in this bullpen to cover for him until he gets back.”
Lidge said he would prepare each game as if he would pitch, but he also looked forward to sharing the duties with Rodriguez. Already, Lidge has felt more fresh day-to-day.
“I think it will definitely be a benefit,” Lidge said. “This early in the season, it’s definitely nice to not have to go several days in a row. Probably by the end of the season, it’s going to make a difference, too. It’s working really well. I think we’re both capable.”