Saturday afternoon, in conjunction with his team meeting, Davey Johnson walked around the Nationals clubhouse and addressed several players one-on-one. As one of his aims, he wanted to let relievers know that he had not been operating the bullpen as he envisioned. A mix of deep starts and rotation blow-ups had provided Johnson with little consistency in managing late in games.
Johnson spoke with closer-turned-set-up-man Drew Storen for several minutes, because Johnson’s search for consistent usage affected him perhaps most of all. Storen has appeared in 11 of 32 games, putting him on pace for 55 appearances. For context, Storen appeared in 73 games in his only full, healthy major league season.
During their talk, Storen let Johnson know he didn’t need to worry about getting him loose and then not pitching – he could take the extra throwing. Storen also felt his usage would grow more regular as the season wore on.
“He’s done a good job in not getting us for no reason, stuff like that,” Storen said. “At the same time, we’ve had such weird games. That first series, we got in a good rhythm. Since then, it’s just been weird games all around. We’ll find a stretch. That’s the thing about the bullpen – it’s so hot or cold. You can go a couple days without throwing, and then all of a sudden you’re, like, begging for a day off a couple days later. It goes one way or the other really quick. He does a great job in keeping us fresh. At the same time, we kind of feel like we’re on vacation a little bit, because the starters are doing so well.”
Earlier this year, Storen received six games off between appearances. Yesterday, Storen pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, protecting a one-run lead, after sitting out for five straight games. Storen has only pitched on consecutive days once all year.
“There’s a fine line,” Storen said. “You got to find a happy medium of not throwing too much. But you also don’t want to have too much rest. Because when you have too much rest, you start to elevate, you start throwing through the break and stuff. It’s a fine line to stay sharp. That’s kind of what I said to him. I don’t mind getting up and just throwing, even if I don’t go in the game. I don’t care.
“I think, too, once we start playing the way we can, hit our stride, that stuff will play itself out. I’m sure we’ll be to the point where I’m going, ‘OK, I can take a day or five.’ That’s how it works. It’s just a matter of staying fresh the best you can.”
After a rocky start to his season, Storen has improved lately, allowing only one run in his past five appearances. He has been attacking hitters with more aggression, too. He’s walked only one hitter in 11 1/3 innings this year while striking out one.