Drew Storen hopes to continue strong ’13 finish

(Katherine Frey/TWP)

(Katherine Frey/TWP)

The offseason following the most trying year of Drew Storen’s career hasn’t been filled with self-discovery. That’s because Storen has focused on the positive, the month following his return from the minors to work on his mechanics and clear his mind. After a stint at Class AAA Syracuse, Storen returned to the majors on Aug. 15 and allowed three earned runs over 19 1/3 innings, struck out 15 and walked six. He remodeled his delivery, changed his pitch mix and improved his command by recommitting to what helped him succeed in the first place.

That is what Storen has focused on all offseason, as he worked out, played catch during the cold Indiana winter and began recently throwing off the mound again.

“I just got back to throwing the way I used to throw,” he said at NatsFest on Saturday. “Being dynamic, athletic and attacking guys, and utilizing my defense. That was my mindset of not trying to do too much. I think going down [to the minors] kinda helped figure out who I was a little bit. I don’t need to go out there and try to throw a perfect pitch every time, I can go out and attack guys.”

And if the Nationals hope to improve in 2014, a better performance from the bullpen will be necessary. The bullpen finished with a middling 3.56 ERA, 17th best in the majors. The struggles of Storen, who finished with a 4.52 ERA, were a part — but not all — of the underwhelming results. Storen’s encouraging finish to the 2013 season is a sign of what could come this season. And with how much the Nationals will spend on the back three relievers — Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano and Storen could make a combined $16.5 million in 2014 — they certainly hope for better than what happened last season.

“It wasn’t ideal obviously [going down to the minors] but you can’t argue with the results when I came back,” Storen said. “I’m happy with where I’m at.”

Storen has been, again, part of trade talks and rumors. The Chicago Cubs had interest earlier this winter in trading for either Storen or Clippard. The Nationals were interested in free agent closer Grant Balfour, who ultimately chose the Tampa Bay Rays, but if he had chosen Washington, Storen and his $3.45 million salary could have quickly been on the trading block. Storen said he has learned to brush off the rumors.

“You don’t take it personal,” he said. “It’s part of it. It’s flattering that another team would want you, too. You gotta look at it from all angles. It’s a great team. I obviously don’t want to go anywhere.”

During his trying 2013 season, Storen also lost plenty of weight. He ate healthier and looked far thinner than his listed 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame. This offseason, Storen has found a better balance in his diet and has been training more. At NatsFest, he looked stronger and he reported his weight as 195 pounds.

“It’s been something I’ve wanted to do just before getting to spring training,” he said. “You tend to lose a little weight being down there in that warm weather. Yeah, but I’ve never gone up this much. I’ve been lifting a lot of more. I’ll save the ‘I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been’ line since that’s what everybody says. But I feel good.”

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