VIERA, Fla. — It is as much a part of his routine as lifting or stretching or long toss.
When an outing is over, when he’s digested the outcome, Drew Storen will sit down and watch video of his appearance. Good or bad, he will watch.
He’ll watch to see if the pitches went where he thought when he saw them zip into the catcher’s mitt live at 90-plus mph, and to see the perspective added by different angles from the television cameras. He’ll watch, mostly, so he can learn.
But he may have been forgiven if he chose to skip the ritual after Game 5 of the National League Division Series. He may have been excused for not wanting to see the Nationals’ charmed 2012 season slip away on film. After all, he lived it.
After that October night, though, after a few days of unwinding and perspective, Storen did what he always does. He sat, and he watched, and he began the healing process. In his mind, at least, he began making himself better for the next time he stands on that mound.
“I felt OK with what I was doing [that night],” Storen said of what he saw on the tape. “It was easier for me to swallow, like I talked about after the game, since I stuck with my game plan. And really, it came down to that you’ve got to tip your hat to those guys.
“Because you sit there and do all the what-ifs, but you’ve got to realize those guys get paid a lot to do what they do. And there’s just some nights you get beat.”
Storen sat in the dugout at Space Coast Stadium on a sun-kissed Wednesday afternoon and went through the public process of addressing what happened in October. The Nationals, as a team, have had to answer the questions about how much their stunning defeat will affect them this season.
They’ve chosen not to look back and keep their eyes firmly focused on their promising future.
But while the loss of the game, and the series, was certainly a product of plenty more than just Storen’s ninth inning, the 25-year-old reliever has never been one to shy from talking when he knows he should. He addressed the questions at the team’s fan fest a few weeks ago, after almost a full winter to ruminate over what had happened, and he did it again in Viera to share his reflections.
He viewed the adversity of that game in a similar way to the adversity of losing more than half of his 2012 season to April elbow surgery: as if each moment was like a fork in the road. He figured he could either turn left and get worse, or turn right and get better from it.
“You’re not going to put it behind you right away,” he said. “Any time I don’t do well, it’s not exactly fun to watch. It’s like going through and reading a paper somebody went through and marked up. You felt good about the paper and didn’t really do well, but that’s how you learn.
“If I only went back and watched good outings, I wouldn’t get any better.”
It was inevitable that this would be a different type of spring for Storen as soon as the score went final on the Nationals’ loss to the Cardinals. He knew that. It was complicated by the offseason addition of veteran closer Rafael Soriano, and the shifting of roles in the Nationals’ bullpen.
But the way Storen has chosen to handle it is to use that night as fuel. He watched the video because he knew he had to. He knew the perfectionist in him would see what wasn’t perfect about that night and figure out how to fix it. He knew there was a lesson to be learned, so he watched.
“I think I can remember saying to him [this offseason] that it wasn’t that bad of an outing,” said Tyler Clippard, who joined Storen on a trip to London after the season. “It was very much a chain of events that just happened, snowballed on him. And he made some good pitches when he needed to. They were really, at the end of the day, just better that night.
“I just think he needed to put that in perspective because those kind of outings happen and it just happened at a bad time. … Watching those games is more of a learning process. It kind of puts that in perspective a little to know if you were actually making good pitches or not and so you know what your mistakes were and then you kind of just move on and try to be better for it.”