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Future Closer Storen Is Signed, Delivered

By Chico Harlan and Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, to begin his introductory news conference at Nationals Park, newly signed first-round pick Drew Storen walked up to a podium, draped a No. 26 Nationals jersey over his dress shirt, and tossed on a Curly W ballcap -- brim flat, just like Chad Cordero used to wear. For that moment, at least, Washington's future closer looked a lot like its old closer. Storen soon acknowledged another similarity: The right-handed pitcher's ambitions to follow Cordero's quick-to-the-big leagues path.

For the Washington Nationals, yesterday's signing created a significant link between old and new. Used to be, the Nationals -- and even the Expos -- signed their first-round picks in a snap. Cordero, their first-rounder from 2003, signed days after the draft. Same with Ross Detwiler, their first-rounder from 2007. Ryan Zimmerman, the team's first-round pick in 2005, actually signed the day he was drafted.

Because of more recent history, though -- most notably the failure to sign 2008 first-round pick Aaron Crow -- and because of looming, complicated negotiations with No. 1 overall selection Stephen Strasburg, Storen's quick signing felt like a welcome change. The Stanford right-hander, who will report to Class A Hagerstown on Saturday, made it clear to the franchise even before the draft that he wouldn't fuss over his contract; he just wanted to expedite his path to the big leagues.

Thus, Storen commanded a bonus of $1.6 million, well below Major League Baseball's recommended guideline for somebody picked in that spot. In recent years, No. 10 picks have all received just above or exactly $2 million, per guidelines of the slotting system. Last year, the No. 10 pick, Stanford catcher Jason Castro, signed with Houston for a $2.07 million bonus. (It should be noted that MLB's slotting figures this year have been reduced by 10 percent, to account for the economic recession.)

"With Drew, like many of our prospects, signability before the draft -- we have discussions with multiple representatives and players, so we knew parameters of Drew's interest level to sign a contract relatively quickly," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He wanted to begin his professional career in a fast manner, because he believes, as do we here in Washington, that the sooner he signs the sooner he can be a quick-to-the-big-leagues type of performer."

Storen's contract guarantees no September big league appearance, but his ability and Washington's desperate need for ninth-inning help could merit such a rise. As a sophomore with the Cardinal this year, Storen went 7-1 with seven saves and a 3.80 ERA.

On May 23, several members of Washington's scouting department, including assistant GM Bob Boone, cross-checker Deric Ladnier and scout Bob Hamelin, watched Storen's fantastic game against Oregon State (2 2/3 innings, one hit, one earned run, eight strikeouts). They liked his mid-90s fastball. They liked his demeanor. They recommended that Rizzo see the kid.

In a roundabout way, that's how Storen arrived at Nationals Park last Thursday for a tryout. Rizzo watched. So did Manager Manny Acta. It was a quick trip -- Storen had a sociology final back at Stanford on Friday -- but it made an impression.

It didn't hurt that Storen had connections to the franchise. He roomed at Stanford with Nationals minor league prospect Jack McGeary, a 2007 draft pick. He even grew up a Nationals fan, first attracted to the Expos when he served as their team bat boy in 2003.

That's where he first met Cordero, in fact.

"I was out in the outfield, and I just started talking to him, and he was talking about pitching in the College World Series and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever," Storen recalled. "He was pitching in college two months ago, and now he's here. When I started closing last year at Stanford, that was something I really put as my goal."

Olsen Heads to Class AAA

After throwing three scoreless innings in a rehabilitation start Tuesday with Class A Potomac, Scott Olsen will make his next appearance with Class AAA Syracuse.

Olsen, on the disabled list since May 18 with shoulder tendinitis, threw 34 pitches and then a bullpen session in a 7-1 win over Winston-Salem. He allowed three hits, struck out four batters and reached 92 mph with his fastball.

"He threw the ball well," Acta said. "We were encouraged by it. He feels really good; I talked to him today."

Acta also cautioned that "it's only the first phase of his rehab." Olsen will throw 55 to 60 pitches in his next start.

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