After a six-game exile to Triple-A Syracuse, right-hander Drew Storen is back with the Nationals.
“I had a good opportunity to get better and get back to being myself,” Storen said. “It’d be stupid for me to waste it.”
To clear room on the 25-man roster before Thursday’s game against the Giants at Nationals Park, struggling reliever Ryan Mattheus departed for Triple-A.
In 6.1 innings with Syracuse, Storen struck out 11 batters without a walk and allowed seven hits and four earned runs. The trip to the minor leagues was precipitated by an emotional series of events last month when the scuffling Storen gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning while fighting a 102-degree fever, was sent down and Tyler Clippard blasted the organization’s handling of his friend.
In the clubhouse Thursday afternoon with a half-unpacked cardboard box in front of his locker, Storen couldn’t stop grinning. The bad feelings of last month were gone.
“Polar opposites,” Storen said of his reaction to returning compared to how he felt last month. “The way I look at this whole year is this is like opening day for me. … You can’t really control or change what’s happened this year but the one thing I can do is be productive at the end.”
He brought back a buzz cut and adjusted mechanics. Before the demotion, Storen told pitching coach Steve McCatty he wanted to get back to a left leg kick he previously used and still went to when playing catch before games. That’s what he worked on with Syracuse. The tweak raised his release point, helped to keep the ball down and allowed his pitches more movement. Additional benefits included shorter time to the plate and tighter breaking balls.
Storen called the demotion “forced relaxation” and manager Davey Johnson emphasized the mental benefits of the break.
“He needed a change of scenery,” Johnson said, “just to get back to Drew being Drew.”
The move was as much about returning Storen to his familiar late-inning role as giving Mattheus an opportunity to regain his old form in the minor leagues. The right-hander surrendered three hits and two runs without recording an out Wednesday in the latest of a string of difficult outings. That led to a 6.26 earned-run average in 23 games.
Johnson believed Mattheus wasn’t using all his pitches and relied on trying to throw hard rather than his effective sinker.
San Francisco Giants
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Brandon Belt, 1B
Buster Posey, C
Hunter Pence, RF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Roger Kieschnick, LF
Gregor Blanco, CF
Ryan Vogelsong, RHP
Denard Span, CF
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Bryce Harper, LF
Jayson Werth, RF
Ian Desmond, SS
Adam LaRoche, 1B
Anthony Rendon, 2B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Dan Haren, RHP