The Nationals want to see more consistency out of closer Drew Storen. They want to see better command and more pitching instead of throwing.
Before they activate the right-hander from a rehab assignment that has already gone on longer than they initially planned, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Tuesday they team is looking to see more of the guy who saved 43 games in 2011 and less of the one who is knocking the rust off after surgery to remove a bone chip and roughly three months without facing hitters.
“The reports I’m getting from all the pitching coaches and the managers is that his arm strength is fine,” Johnson said Tuesday afternoon. “His command might be off because he’s trying to overthrow. His release points are a little inconsistent.
“Part of the issue when you’re coming back is arm strength and, in the pitcher’s mind, predominantly throwing as hard as you can for the radar gun etc. — and that’s not pitching. Storen has always had good command and his breaking ball has been a little inconsistent (on rehab) so sometimes it can be inconsistent if the arm strengths’ not there and sometimes because you’re trying to overthrow.”
In his first five rehab appearances, Storen pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowed six earned runs off seven hits, gave up two homers, struck out six and walked two. The Nationals have no need to rush him back, their bullpen well-stocked with capable arms, but a healthy Storen is one of the best closers in the game. That’s what the Nationals are waiting for.
“I’ve got a lot of talented guys out there,” Johnson said. “But we’re talking about Drew Storen. When he’s ready he’s coming back. And I want him back.”
Storen may have taken another step toward being ready later Tuesday, then, when he fired a 1-2-3 inning for Single-A Potomac, needing only 11 pitches to get a strikeout, ground out and another strikeout. According to the P-Nats, Storen’s slider was strong and helped him get both strikeouts as batters flailed at the pitch for strike three.
Storen will likely be back at Nationals Park on Wednesday with his own report of the outing but, for now, we’ll have to settle for the results, which were extremely strong.