The Washington Post

Davey Johnson: Drew Storen’s inexperience, not back pain, led to Game 5 loss

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

After games late last season, Drew Storen would routinely walk through the Nationals’ clubhouse with ice wrapped around his lower back. It was hardly a noteworthy development – every member of the Nationals, by that point in the year, covered some part of his body with ice.

It turns out Storen may have been more compromised than it appeared. Last night, reported that Storen pitched during the playoffs, including the disastrous Game 5 of the NLDS, with significant pain in his back

“He was having real bad back spasms,” right fielder Jayson Werth told “That was the third day [pitching] in a row. He was banged up, man. No one knew. For him to just have the [guts] to go out there, that says a lot about him. … I’m not blaming his injury. He just wasn’t healthy.”

Today, Manager Davey Johnson insisted Storen’s back had nothing to do with his performance, when he allowed four runs that turned a 7-5, ninth-inning lead into a 9-7, season-ending defeat. He attributed the bad inning – which came after a near-flawless month for Storen – to inexperience.

“The only thing I recall is he didn’t throw many strikes,” Johnson said. “He tried to be too fine. Gio [Gonzalez] had the same problem. He tried to be too fine. He wasn’t very pitch-efficient. That’s just lack of experience. I’m sure that hadn’t been the first time he pitched with some back spasms. I’m not worried about him. He’s a great young pitcher.”

Johnson said Storen’s back spasms haven’t lingered, and he has not been receiving treatment on his back this spring. Johnson pointed to Storen’s first live batting practice session of the spring as a sign of his strength. “Guys were talking about how nasty he was,” Johnson said. .

The revelation about Storen’s back makes one decision more curious. In Game 5, Storen pitched for the third straight day because Johnson had given him an inning of work during the Nationals’ blowout loss Game 3.

“I don’t think anybody was overly tired,” Johnson said. “I attribute it more to the inexperience situation, trying to do too much.”

Adam Kilgore covers national sports for the Washington Post. Previously he served as the Post's Washington Nationals beat writer from 2010 to 2014.
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