Late last fall, as Drew Storen stood in center field shagging flies while the Nationals finished batting practice, he noticed one of the Phillies pitchers extending into the outfield while he played catch to warm up. It was not just any Phillies pitcher. It was Brad Lidge, their closer, the one non-teammate in the major leagues he revered more than any other player
“He’s the guy that I always looked up,” Storen said. “He’s had his ups and downs and he’s been a stable guy. My dad [a sports radio broadcaster] would talk about him standing there and facing every single question, just facing the music. It’s just somebody I had tremendous respect for.”
Storen felt nervous, but he decided, yes, he should introduce himself. “It was like, ‘OK, I’m a rookie. he probably has no idea who I am.’ I just kind of went up to him, I was like, ‘Hey man, I just want to shake your hand.’ ”
Lidge shook Storen’s and told him it was nice to meet him, that he had good stuff. Storen realized that Lidge, in fact, knew exactly who he was.
“I was just so blown away,” Storen said. “That was really cool. It’s something that doesn’t sink, when I guy that I look up to knows who I am or even knows my name halfway. It just shows what a good guy he is.”
Closers, on one level, all play for the same team. No one can understand the specific pressure of their job quite like other closers. Lidge appreciated Storen’s want to learn more about the game and the role.
“I always respect young guys when they come up and ask questions and want to talk baseball,” Lidge said. “I was fortunate. I had Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel when I came up. I had them to mentor me. I think he’s kind of reaching out and saying, ‘I want to get better. I want to learn more about the game.’ I respect that a lot. When you’re young and you’ve got good stuff and got a good head, that’s a good sign for him in the future to be a really good closer in the major leagues.”
That day last fall, Lidge and Storen chatted about several topics, including how to come back after blowing a save. Lidge has carried his fair share of those. Albert Pujols’s home run off Lidge in the 2005 NLCS is one of the more famous blasts in recent years, the one that flew just about out Minute Maid Park and nearly cost the Astros the series. He struggled at the start of next season, but he eventually re-established him as one of the game’s best closer and converted every save chance as he helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, of which Lidge recorded the final out. The next year, he blew 10 saves. He relied on what Wanger told him years ago: “It’s baseball. It happens. Don’t beat yourself up. Just come back and get ready to throw tomorrow.”
Before Lidge and Storen met, Storen had allowed a walk-off home run to Jayson Werth, a blast that capped a brutal inning in Philadelphia. Watching in the other bullpen was Lidge.
“I remember the next outing he had, I remember paying attention a little bit just to see,” Lidge said. “Any closer, when you’re in this game long enough, you’re going to have bad games. I’ve had plenty of them. After he had a bad game, he responded the next time by coming out and doing really well. Besides that, I think he’s got really good stuff.”
So bouncing back was one of the topics that came up in their first conversation. “This isn’t unique,” Lidge told Storen. “This happens to everyone.”
The conversation ended when Storen jogged into the Nationals clubhouse. He remembered what Lidge told him and tried to apply it. It meant something to him that a veteran would take the time to talk to him, a rookie, and it meant even more that he knew his name.
Lidge is traveling with the Phillies, sitting out on the disabled list as he recovers from a shoulder injury that surfaced during spring training. He still may have a slight impact on this current series at Nationals Park, thanks to his meeting with Storen in the outfield.
“It’s something,” Storen said, “I won’t forget.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals finally struck against Roy Halladay, but he smothered their ninth-inning rally and they lost 3-2 to set up a rubber match tomorrow.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse was postponed for the second straight day against Pawtucket.
New Brunswick 4, Harrisburg 3:Stephen Lombardozzi went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run.Bill Rhinehart went 1 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Brad Meyers allowed four earned runs on nine hits and no walks in 4 2/3 innings, striking out five.
Winston-Salem 3, Potomac 2 (Game 1, 10 innings):Steven Souza went 2 for 4 with a home run. Paul Demny allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 innings on three hits and a walk, striking out four.
Potomac 3, Winston-Salem 2 (Game 2, seven innings): Steven Souza went 2 for 3 with a triple. Francisco Soriano went 2 for 3 with a triple.
Hagerstown 1, Lexington 0 (Game 1, seven innings): Bryce Harper went 1 for 2 with a walk. Mills Rogers went 2 for 3 with two doubles. Cameron Selik allowed no runs on four hits and two walks, striking out five in five innings.
Lexington 6, Hagerstown 4 (Game 2, seven innings): Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 with a two-run home run. Randolph Oduber went 1 for 3.