Drew Storen’s rough night continues bullpen troubles

(Alex Brandon / AP)

(Alex Brandon / AP)

Before Friday night, Manager Davey Johnson had not found the right situation for Drew Storen to pitch in a week. The Nationals had either been blown or pulled ahead with a large lead, games not conducive for a set-up reliever. And so Storen sat for a week after he allowed two runs in a blown save against the Braves.

Johnson decided Storen needed work, no matter the situation, and so Storen entered Friday with the Nationals trailing, 4-1. His performance inspired little confidence. Storen allowed a triple and two solo homers, three runs in all, to push his season ERA to 7.11 in 6 1/3 innings.

Pitching coach Steve McCatty chalked up Storen’s performance as “a function that he didn’t pitch in seven days.” But he also said Storen needed to locate the ball better.

“As far as the location of those pitches that were hit out last night, they were center-cut,” McCatty said. “They were right down the middle, where they’re not supposed to be. You can’t throw those pitches. He was trying, but he didn’t get it there.

“You should be able to locate the ball. Divide the plate up to thirds. To be successful, you better be able to hit the inside third or the outside third, or miss off and not over the middle. He got a couple balls over the middle. Drew has always been a grip-it-and-rip-it kind of guy. He left it where they could hit it.”

Storen’s rough night continued a discouraging beginning for the Nationals’ bullpen. Their collective 5.70 ERA ranks last in the majors. Johnson has been trying to find consistent roles for his relievers, all of whom are taking on new roles after the addition of closer Rafael Soriano. Johnson, almost three weeks into the season, still has not found something that works.

“I’ve got some work to do, and so do they,” Johnson said. “We’re not quite there yet. It just takes time to get comfortable, how I want to use them, in what situations where I feel I can control the matchups. Obviously, I’m not doing a very good job so far. Because we’re not being as successful as we can.”

For one day next week, Storen may return to his old closer’s role. Soriano will remain in New York on paternity leave and miss Monday’s game against the Cardinals. And so, Storen may get his first save chance since Game 5 against the team that upended him back in October.

Soriano plans to only miss one game, but players are allowed to miss up to three on paternity leave. Johnson said he does not know if the Nationals will summon a pitcher from Class AAA Syracuse to take Soriano’s place Monday.

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