For Drew Storen, the Washington Nationals' future closer, the future can't get here quick enough

By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 2010

KISSIMMEE, FLA. -- Drew Storen wants to do everything fast. For example, he hates shopping online. "If I want something," he said, "I want it to come now." On long drives to youth baseball games, Storen sat in the back seat and sketched fast cars. When he takes off and puts on his sneakers, he leaves them tied.

Storen signed his first contract with the Washington Nationals the day after they drafted him. He flew to Washington for a news conference, and afterward a team official asked him when he wanted to start playing. Storen replied, "How about Friday?" It was a Wednesday.

"I'm not," he said, "a patient person."

Storen is the Nationals' closer of the future, and for him the future is always too far away. Equipped with a 97-mph fastball and four other pitches he can strike out a hitter with, Storen may be ready for the major leagues right now. In his spring training debut Thursday against Houston, Storen retired the side on nine pitches -- eight of which were strikes. First, though, he will probably have to do the one thing he least likes. Wait.

Despite Storen's minor league experience last year after being drafted with the 10th overall pick, the Nationals are likely to take roughly the same cautious approach with him as with Stephen Strasburg in regards to making their opening day roster. By holding Storen back until around June, the Nationals can provide more seasoning and, maybe more importantly, pause his eligibility for arbitration and free agency by one year.

"I wouldn't get frustrated if I got sent to the minors," Storen said. "At the same time, I'm hungry. I want to be there. I'm a big person to make the most of my opportunities. It's a great honor to be here. But I'm also not treating it like a fantasy camp, just out here having fun. I want to make the team. That's something that I keep in mind. That's why I'm here -- to win a spot. If I'm going, I'm going as hard as I can, pedal to the metal."

He even talks fast. And so when Storen tells you how he decided on his fast track to becoming a big league closer -- from college to the draft to the majors in the same summer -- you have to ask him to repeat it to make sure you heard all the details right.

In September 2003, the Montreal Expos came to Cincinnati to play the Reds. Storen lived in Indianapolis, and his father Mark had a longtime connection with Ron McClain, the Expos trainer. McClain told Mark Storen that anytime he wanted to have Drew come and serve as a batboy, call him. That's how Storen, at 16, came to be shagging batting practice in the Great American Ballpark outfield, wearing an Expos uniform next to a young closer named Chad Cordero.

Storen listened as Cordero described his career path. He pitched in the College World Series at Cal State Fullerton. He was drafted in the first round. He had been called up in September. It all sounded so cool.

Storen has not spoken with Cordero since, but he never forgot. Before college, all he wanted to do was pitch in the College World Series. At 16, the majors didn't seem like an option. As a freshman in high school, Storen had been only 5 feet 8, 120 pounds. When he was younger, he would ask his father, "When am I going to grow?"

Eventually he did, and then he threw a fastball 90 mph at a high school tournament in Tennessee. Stanford recruited him as a third baseman and a starter. The coach, Mark Marquess, asked him about closing. "What do you think about that?" Mark Storen asked his son. "I kind of like it," Storen said. "I'll get in more games."

After his freshman year, Storen realized he could make the majors. He wanted to be like Cordero again -- he planned his sophomore season to be drafted, sign early and make the majors as a September call-up in the same summer.

"He's the kind of person that's like, well, okay, why can't I have it now?" Mark Storen said. "What do I need to do to get it now?"

Storen never made the majors last year, but he feels the decision to sign early put him in prime position to do so this season. If Storen continues to pitch as he did yesterday, the Nationals may have a difficult time holding him back. Storen faced three batters. He forced two groundouts and struck out Chris Johnson swinging at a slider. In just nine pitches, he squeezed in two different fastballs, a slider and a curve.

After he finished, he walked off the mound and into the dugout. "I don't know if it was easy," Storen said. "It was quick, fortunately."

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