MILWAUKEE — For just the second time since he’s come off the disabled list, Drew Storen was allowed to throw an entire inning Friday night. He was summoned in a six-run game to pitch the bottom of the seventh against the top of the Brewers’ order.
And in getting through the Brewers’ top four hitters in a scoreless frame, Storen was perhaps more like his old self than he has been at any point this season.
He pounded 96-mph sinkers, had good movement on his slider and used his four-seam fastball sparingly. Norichika Aoki managed a bouncing single up the middle but Carlos Gomez popped out in foul ground to first baseman Adam LaRoche, Ryan Braun flew out in foul territory in left field and Aramis Ramirez was caught looking at a 1-2 slider.
“Storen was outstanding,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “He looked like when he was here last year. Good, hard fastball, moving, great breaking ball, went right after them.”
Storen threw an inning in his first appearance this season, after missing the Nationals’ first 89 games following surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow, but has been limited to one or two batters each time out since then. Johnson said on several occasions he was trying to work Storen back into the routine in a manner the right-hander was comfortable with and that progression took another step forward on Friday.
“I felt really good,” Storen said. “Felt like I had good command of my pitches and the slider’s getting there.”
Storen’s velocity was the highest it’s been since he came off the disabled list. A good sign, he said, about his follow through and ability for explosiveness within control.
“It’s about controlling it but really letting it eat there at the end and still maintaining command and movement,” Storen said. “It’s something you keep building on. I felt good. I was happy to see where it was velocity-wise. Hopefully it’ll keep climbing.”
Johnson has been easing Storen back in at the major league level but while doing so the roles in his bullpen have become less set. For them to regain some order, Storen pitching the way the Nationals expect and the way he knows he’s capable is paramount.
“It’s just a feel thing,” Storen said, asked about the bite on his slider. “It’s learning to pitch in that sixth gear. As much as you want to work on things in the bullpen or before the game, that’s the only way you get that feel for it and get that slider that I had last year is to do it.”