Drew Storen is on pace to pitch in 79 games this season, and Davey Johnson knows that cannot last. Storen is in his second year in the majors, his first as a closer. He has saved 22 games in 25 chances, but Johnson worries he’ll wear down. Before last night, Storen had pitched four out of five days. “That’s not what I want to do to him,” Johnson said.
Storen arrives at the park every day expecting he will get into the game. He ices after each game and works to ensure he can bounce back the next day. His arm has felt fine all year, and he sees no reason not to pitch when a win is in the balance. “My favorite thing in the world is to pitch the ninth inning,” Storen said.
Johnson’s desire to rest Storen and Storen’s desire to pitch collided late Wednesday night. After Henry Rodriguez pitched a scoreless eighth inning, Johnson sent word to Nationals bullpen coach Jim Lett he was leaning toward sending Rodriguez back out for the ninth rather than Storen.
“We sent word down there that we weren’t going to go with him,” Johnson said. “I talked to Jimmy Lett. He said, ‘Drew didn’t like that very much.’ I got his blood boiling.”
Ultimately, Storen’s viewpoint prevailed. He earned his 22nd save while pitching for the third day in a row and the fifth time in six games. He needed only nine pitches, the third time this year Storen has recorded a save in fewer than 10 pitches.
Even pitching for the third straight day, Storen held his stuff fine. Every fastball he threw was 96 miles per hour. If his arm has a limit for how many consecutive days he can work, “I haven’t found yet,” Storen said. “I guess we’ll see. If it starts barking, I’ll say something.”
Since he arrived in the majors last May, Storen has learned how to keep himself fresh and conserve his pitches. He used to play “burnout” before games, throwing as hard as he could in a game of catch to maintain arm strength. He doesn’t do that anymore. He’s also slashed the number of pitches he needs to prepare – warming up to throw and not throwing to warm up, in his term.
“A lot of it comes down to saving bullets in the bullpen,” Storen said. “That’s something I’ve learned from a lot of the older guys I’ve been fortunate to play with. I hear stories that Trevor Hoffman used to do it in eight pitches. I actually asked him when we were in San Diego. He said it was true. I’ve always shot to be kind of like that.”
Still, no matter how adept Storen has become at taking care of his arm, Johnson knows his pace will have to slow. Among the top 25 major league saves leaders last year, only four appeared in more than 70 games, with Carlos Marmol leading the way at 77.
“I’m looking for another guy in that role we can use,” Johnson said. “If you’re going to be 10, 20, 30 games over .500, you have to have somebody. I want to groom that guy can come in and pick up the slack.”
Last night, it was going to be Rodriguez, whose ERA shrunk to 1.91 in 28 1/3 innings this season.
“I was going to run him out there,” Johnson said. “Don’t tell Drew that.”
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NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Pawtucket 2, Syracuse 0: J.C. Romero allowed no runs in two relief innings on no hits and a walk, striking out three. J.D. Martin allowed two runs in six innings on two hits and no walks, striking out five.
Harrisburg 4, Erie 3: Bryce Harper went 3 for 3 with a sacrifie bunt. Chris Rahl went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Rafael Martin earned the save with a scoreless ninth, walking one and striking out three.
Potomac 9, Frederick 5: Destin Hood went 2 for 4. Justin Bloxom went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk.
Lakewood 1, Hagerstown 0 (10 innings):Robbie Ray allowed no runs in six innings on four hits and two walks, striking out seven. He has a 1.75 in 56 2/3 innings with 56 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Auburn 6, Jamestown 2: Hendry Jimenez went 2 for 5 with a home run. Adrian Nieto went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Colin Bates allowed no earned runs in five innings on eight hits and two walks, striking out one.