Results tagged ‘ Drew Storen ’
With only hours remaining for fans to vote for their favorite players for the 2011 All-Star Game, it’s time to take a look at the Nationals’ candidates for the Midsummer Classic. The Nationals strong month of June has brought more recognition to some of their hottest players and many Nats are making a case to be in Arizona on July 12. Unlike years past, where the team’s lone selection has been pretty clear cut—this year the Nats have a chance to send multiple players to the All-Star Game.
If you’re talking about the potential NL All-Star infield, it’s going to be tough to leave Danny Espinosa out of the conversation. He’s leading all rookies in multiple offensive categories—home runs (15), triples (4), slugging percentage (.465), and OPS (.788). He’s been stellar at second base so far this season, helping provide a wall of defense up the middle. Espinosa is certainly making his case to not only be a Nationals representative in the All-Star Game, but to be Rookie of the Year as well.
Along with Espi, you’ve got Michael Morse leading the Club’s current power surge. Morse has also hit 15 home runs—and with a .550 slugging percentage, he’s currently fifth overall in the NL in that category. After getting off to a slow start, Morse absolutely took off. In May he batted .403 with a 1.196 OPS, and in June he hit more than half of his home runs so far this year and maintained a .299 average. While, admittedly, his position (first base) is going to be tough for him to compete in, he’s at least put his name into the mix.
Then you’ve got the beast of the bullpen—Drew Storen. Storen is currently 12th in the NL in saves, having gone 19 for 22 in save opportunities. He has a 2.90 ERA with 32 strikeouts. But, better than that, he’s held opponents to a .188 average while posting a WHIP of just 0.99. Matt Capps represented the Nationals in the 2010 All-Star Game and Storen hopes to make it two DC All-Star closers in a row.
From the starting rotation, Jason Marquis is making a strong case to go to Arizona for the All-Star Game. He’s currently leading the team in wins, with seven, and is in the midst of a rebound season having recovered from the arm surgery he had last season. He’s posted an ERA of 3.62 with a WHIP of 1.39 and has been one of the team’s most consistent starters.
Jordan Zimmermann is also rebounding from injury in his first full season since going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2009. Zimmermann is currently seventh in the NL in WHIP (1.07) and fifth in the NL in ERA (2.63). He’s had trouble getting run support and is currently only 5-7, but it’s clear he’s a force to be reckoned with when he’s on the mound, having recorded a quality start in 13 of his 16 outings. JZ is also worthy of a trip to the Midsummer Classic.
The fan vote most-likely won’t determine the Nationals’ selection(s) but we’ll find out which Nats stars will be All-Stars very soon.
The Nationals won the series last night with a 2-1 victory over the Mariners, thanks to solid pitching performances by John Lannan, Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen. They’ll attempt to sweep the series and get a game over .500 today.
Here are today’s lineups:
Ichiro Suzuki – RF
Dustin Ackley – 2B
Adam Kennedy – 3B
Justin Smoak – 1B
Miguel Olivo – C
Mike Carp – LF
Franklin Gutierrez – CF
Justin Wilson – SS
Michael Pineda – P
Roger Bernadina – CF
Jayson Werth – RF
Ryan Zimmerman – 3B
Michael Morse – 1B
Danny Espinosa – 2B
Ivan Rodriguez – C
Jerry Hairston – LF
Jason Marquis – P
Ian Desmond – SS
*In three career starts against the Mariners, Jason Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s struck them out 13 times while allowing only one home run.
*With last night’s victory, this has been the latest in any season since the end of the 2005 season (when they ended the season at 81-81) that the Nationals have been at .500. The last time they were even this year was May 11.
It is only 15 games into the season—just under 1/10th of the way through—and the Nationals moved over the .500 mark for the first time on Sunday. Granted, it is early and trying to predict future success on current records is senseless. At that same time, the current record isn’t meaningless and it is always better to be 10-5 then 5-10 even if neither record predicts future success. We don’t know what the future holds but we do know how the past 15 games have unfolded. The Nats are 8-7 and here are four things that probably flew under the radar:
On Friday night, the Nats won the game playing a brand of old-school, small ball baseball. The play is the epitome of who Jayson Werth is as a person, a hard-nose player willing to win at all costs and he doesn’t care if it is pretty. In the bottom of the 10th inning with the game tied 3-3, Werth reached on a throwing error by Yunesky Betancourt and immediately took second on the passed ball. It is tough to say how many runners would have remained at first base but Werth and all quality base runners look over their right shoulder when they get to first base in case there is a passed ball—it allows them to pick up the ball right away. Adam LaRoche stepped to the plate and on a 1-1 count, Werth stole third. “We’re having a hard time getting the bats going,” Werth said. “When that’s the case, you have to do something extra a little bit.”
LaRoche worked the count full and chopped a hard grounder to Prince Fielder at first base. Werth was running on contact and easily beat Fielder’s high throw to home. The ball didn’t leave the infield that inning and the Nats didn’t record a hit but they got their run. That’s all that mattered. It’s a brand of baseball that you will see more often.
There was an interesting three up, three down inning for the Nats on Sunday in the second game of the doubleheader. Michael Morse tried to stretch a single into a double but was gunned out by Ryan Braun’s right arm at second. LaRoche singled to right the next at-bat and then Wilson Ramos ground into a 5-4-3 double play. The Nats recorded two hits and only sent three players to the plate. Does anyone know of an instance in which three hits were recorded in an inning and only three hitters batted? I can think of many scenarios in which this could happen, all of which seem rather unrealistic, but conventional wisdom always seems to be turned on its head in baseball. The most obvious scenario is three straight batters trying to stretch a single into a double. It is the most obvious scenario and you would think the least likely. You can only assume after watching two teammates getting gunned out at second, the third batter would do everything in his control not to be that guy. That being said, I am sure it has happened.
Speaking of conventional wisdom, the common belief entering the season was that the Nationals starting rotation was their biggest shortcoming. That hasn’t been the case. The eclectic starting staff has strutted their stuff in the first 15 games, recording 10 quality starts (tied for second in the Majors) and pitching at least 5.0 innings in each game. They are the only team that can say that. The starters have a 3.30 ERA, good for fifth in the Majors, and have walked just 21 batters, good for 28th. That is a recipe for success.
Manager Jim Riggleman has shown that he will rely on three arms when the Nats are up by a run: Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Sean Burnett—it has been in that order so far this season. The big three have a collective ERA of 1.55 (29.0 IP/ 5 ER) with 27 strikeouts. We don’t quite know who will be the closer in September though. The Nats haven’t officially named Burnett the closer but he has been given every opportunity in the ninth so far this season, so it is tough to call it a closer by committee. “I’ve got the chances so far,” Burnett said. “But I understand that Drew was drafted for it with the kind of arm he has. I kind of feel that it’s more my job right now to do as well as I can, but to also help him potentially take over.” Drew Storen did pick up the save on Sunday in the night cap but it wasn’t a save situation entering the ninth inning.
Frank Howard told Bryce Harper he had a record that Harper would never touch and he wasn’t talking about his 48 home runs in a single season either. Howard can tell stories as detailed and captivating as a World War II veteran—you start to wish the story never ended. He talked about the doubleheader on Sept. 19, 1970 when he recorded six straight strikeouts and hit into a double play in his seventh at-bat to be the first person to strikeout six straight times and record eight outs in seven at-bats in one day. On the bright side, it was the first standing ovation he received as a visiting player.
Busiest day yet at Nationals camp as position players today
joined the fray.
* Have you ever wanted to work in baseball? If yes, let me
give you a bit of advice. If anyone ever offers you the job of coordinating a
Spring Training camp, say “no way” and run in the opposite direction. How tough
is that gig? I have heard the two toughest jobs in the game are being the
Rockies’ pitching coach before the advent of the baseball humidor and being a
Spring Training coordinator. That’s why today I would like to give kudos to
Bobby Henley, who doubles as our Minor League Field Coordinator. Henley is a
heck of a guy with a deep-rooted passion for the game of baseball and how it
should be played. If you or your place of business ever needs of motivator,
this is your guy. I have heard him speak to the young Instructional Leaguers
and by the time he was finished, I was ready to run through the wall and I am
just the PR guy. Henley has taken the unenviable task of plotting, planning and
orchestrating the movements from drill to drill. He has to enact the vision
that Jim Riggleman lays out for these two weeks leading into games. Henley does
it well and he is a pleasure to deal with. But remember, you do NOT want his
* Crazy but true fact of the week… this is Livan Hernandez’s
10th Spring Camp in Viera, Fla. Yes, 10! Here’s a list of the springs that
Hernandez spent in Viera and with what teams: Marlins (1996, ’97, ’98, ’99),
Expos (2003, ’04), Nationals (2005, ’06, ’10 and ’11). Is he eligible to run
* With an abundance of young players trying to make their
mark and earn a coveted roster spot, one player that the next generation
Nationals can draw inspiration from is Chad Gaudin. Gaudin was drafted in June
2001 by Tampa Bay and debuted with the (then) Devil Rays just 26 months later.
What’s the big deal you ask? Well, Chad was a 34th-round draft pick out
of Crescent High in Metairie, La. So, he debuted in the Big Leagues, as an
unheralded 34th-rounder, at the age of 20. That
is a rare, rare story.
* Interesting fundamental drill of the day: 3B coach Bo
Porter is the Nationals’ primary outfield instructor. He had Jayson Werth,
Nyjer Morgan, Bryce Harper and others chasing long fly balls today while
carrying a football! I missed speaking to Porter after the workout, but I think
the drill’s objective is to keep an outfielder’s core as motionless as possible
while pursuing those long fly balls. Porter’s a fantastic instructor and a
great addition to Jim Riggleman’s staff. He definitely knows football too. He
was a two-sport (baseball, football) athlete at the University of Iowa, where
he was Hayden Fry’s starting cornerback in the 1992 Rose Bowl.
* Fans on hand today also spied the first live batting
practice of the spring. Yes, pitchers actually threw to hitters. Most hitters
do a bunch of watching, in fact, Jayson Werth indicated he may not have swung
at all. Conversely, Matt Stairs swung and went deep during his live BP.
* Book Club: Stanford
alum Drew Storen is currently reading “Scorecasting,” which is written by University of Chicago financial economist Tobias Moskowitz
and Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim. Together, they attempt to
unearth “the hidden forces that shape how basketball, baseball, football, and
hockey games are played, won and lost.” Sounds like an intriguing read.
* Let’s close with our “4 Questions” segment. Today’s victim
was pitcher Tom Gorzelanny:
as a Youth?:
White Sox, Ken Griffey Jr. (Huh? He played for the Cubs last year, wonder how
that little nugget was received in the Windy City)
Favorite Game Show of all-time?: Wheel of Fortune (who doesn’t love
Favorite Superhero?: Batman (interesting answer from a pitcher, don’t you think?)
Most apt to watch CNN, Food Network or Travel Channel (and list favorite
None of the above. I am much more likely to be checking The History Channel and
looking for a show on the government (CIA, Secret Service, etc.) or war
* Again, I’d like to acknowledge the multiple contributions
of my PR confidants, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. And as a reminder, we are
anxiously awaiting the return of Mark Lerner to the blogging airwaves. Look for
Mark to reemerge on Mon., Feb. 28.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more. Cannot wait.
Greetings from warm–77-79 degrees and near perfect–Viera, Fla.
Today, as you are all likely aware, was the report date for Nationals pitchers and catchers. Really, it is the first day of school for baseball fans… and employees.
My name is John Dever and I will be putting together some miscellaneous items over the course of Spring Training. I am the PR Director of the Nationals’ baseball operation. I will be tying together some of my own observations with various contributions from my trusty sidekicks, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. But really, the three of us are just place holders for Mark Lerner, who will be blogging about his Spring Training experiences starting next week. He began blogging during the ’09 Winter Meetings and, in talking to him, is very excited to share his Grapefruit League observations, most of which will focus on your Nationals.
So, let’s get started…
*Personally, the best sign of the spring is that five of our eight “everyday” players have already reported to camp in excess of a week before their report date. Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Nyjer Moran, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa have been working out–hitting–on the back fields here for nearly a week. Spirits are high and the cohesion is growing between this group.
*I know that Adam Kilgore touched on this in a blog post today, but did you know that Drew Storen has worn eight different uniform numbers since we drafted him just 20 months ago? I know it’s crazy, but here is the rundown thanks to jersey extraordinaire Bill Gluvna–all you uniform aficionados have at it:
#26 – worn at introductory press conference and with Single-A Hagerstown
#20 – 2009 Single-A Potomac and 2009-10 Harrisburg Senators
#21 – 2009-10 Double Harrisburg and 2010 Triple-A Syracuse
#38 – 2009 Nationals Instructional League
#17 – 2009 Arizona Fall League
#58 – 2010 season with the Nationals
#25 – (right) worn at Nationals uniform unveiling held in November 2010.
#22 – 2011 season
*When we were kids, we all had to endure a summer reading list at one time or another. Well, we checked in with our skipper, Jim Riggleman, who told us that the latest additions to his winter reading list included Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny by Marlo Thomas. Next up is Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.
*Hair Report: Ian Desmond is growing his hair out a bit. “If it worked for Werth,” he said. “I am going to give it a try.” Also, Ross Detwiler has cut his hair, it is more indicative of the length when we drafted him back in 2007. Gone is Ross’ shaggy look that was Owen Wilson-esque.
*Jesus Flores is indeed beaming. He’s excited about the competition at catcher with Wilson Ramos and Pudge. What is interesting is you have two catchers who have idolized Pudge for years now vying for playing time with the 14-time All-Star. When you think about it, how many teams have the blend of catching talent and depth that your Nationals possess? And all this without mentioning Derek Norris? By the way, all four of the aforementioned catchers have histories that say they are above average throwers from behind the dish.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled Curly W Live programming to bring you some insights from Manager Jim Riggleman on the signing of Jayson Werth and the state of the rest of the roster. Keep checking back for more musings from Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner throughout the week.
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Actually when I got here, I knew that we had made this trade. Mike and I talked a lot about players like Jayson and others, and you know, I knew who Mike had his sights on. You know, we had expressed it thoughts on a lot of players, but you know, it was very much under the radar, kept quiet, and so I basically found out when I got here.
Q. How does it feel for the first time in your career to have money to spend on players?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I don’t know if it’s the first time. I felt that I’ve been fortunate to manage in places and owners have always been generous in trying to put the best players we can out there.
Sometimes your ownership group is trying to get players, and the players don’t take the money. You know, you offer good money and they find something else somewhere. But you know, in this case, I think it’s very encouraging, not only with Jayson, but with Bryce Harper and the commitment to Ryan Zimmerman a few years ago; I think that there’s a history here of trying to go out through the ballclub, whether it’s through trades, free agents, whatever, but there’s a great commitment to player development.
I think this is a great sign for the organization and our fans that the ballclub is serious about having a better future for this organization.
Q. You talk about messages, in terms of the money that you’re paying Jayson says that you believe we can be a middle of the lineup, superstar‑caliber player. In Philadelphia, he had other bats around him. Do you feel he can be that kind of guy?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I don’t think that ‑‑ we are not really approaching it as, okay, you have to be the centerpiece of this organization. You know, we just feel like he’s a very good player that has done some great things in Philadelphia.
And you’re right, he’s around a lot of good players, but we can put players around him. We still have Ryan Zimmerman there and we have Willingham there and we have a first baseman that will drive in runs one way or another. He’s not going to feel that he’s alone there in the lineup.
His athleticism and his talent, he’s surrounded by other good athletes, and you know, we just want to play baseball. We are not looking for him to come in redefine his numbers. If he does what he’s done in the past, that’s a great thing and if he does a little more, a little less, it’s still going to be a great thing, because he’s really done some great things last few years.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to him at all?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I have not talked to him yet, no.
Q. Assuming you get a first baseman, your outfield looks a little crowded; do you feel like there are enough at‑bats for everyone there and do you feel that you have an excess there and maybe need to make a move to open spots for other guys?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: You know, I think we want to have about five guys there, and if you add up what we have got there now, that’s about what we have. Will something else happen? Yeah, it might happen. There might be another acquisition, might be a trade that clears it up. We really are early into not just the Winter Meetings, but we are still early into the off‑season. A lot of things can still happen. I’m not sure how it will shake out exactly. But you know, we just try to divvy up the at‑bats as best we can and keep guys as productive as we can.
Q. Would you feel comfortable with the infield now, or do you feel like you need another utility‑type guy for insurance or just to have another body?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think maybe in a perfect world, maybe is that player will be able to do a little bit of both, move around. In the National League, it’s nice to have guys who can go in the infield and outfield and have a guy or two like that. So that might be something to look at.
No, I’m very happy with Gonzalez, Espinosa, Desmond right now.
Q. Is your first impulse, where to bat Jayson; the Phillies were reluctant to bat him in the 3‑hole, he batted 5 and sometimes in the 2‑hole. What are your thoughts of him and Zimmerman and how you might do that?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think it depends on who plays first base and where that person hits and what kind of protection that person can give for either Ryan or Jayson.
My recollection is there were times where Howard and Utley were both hurt at the same time and Jayson did fill that spot in the middle pretty good at third or fourth and productive. If that is where he is at, that will be fine.
I think what happens, if Willingham is out there, he’s good protection for Ryan. If it’s a left‑hand hitting first baseman, it might be protection there in that way.
Q. How important is it to you to acquire the kind of bench guys, that can play infield, outfield, that have more versatility from multiple guys to give you options late in the game, and was that a problem last year?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: No, it really wasn’t a problem. I don’t ‑‑ again, I think we might have put Gonzalez out there a couple of innings one time, at least we talked about it.
I think Gonzalez could do that. But you know, Willy could do that last year, he could go in the infield or outfield last year. It just so happens we had so many infielders, we didn’t use him in the infield very much.
It’s comforting to know, as the game plays out, and you have to do certain things in the game, the way the lineups turn over, that you have somebody that can fill a lot of different roles.
It’s nice to know that Jayson is a very comparable center fielder as well as right fielder. We are getting more athletic, is what it amounts to. We are getting a little more versatile, a little more athletic.
Q. Is Nyjer your center fielder or is it a competition between him and Roger going into the spring?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think Nyjer is our center fielder. I think Bernie played his best baseball defensively in left, did okay in right, did fine in center but I thought he really excelled in left field.
You know, Josh is out there, so Bernie is going to be fighting for at‑bats.
Q. You mentioned left‑handed hitting first baseman provides protection; how much does Pena fit that bill?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: We are like a lot of teams. We like Carlos Pena. We really liked Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn did a great job for us and we appreciate everything he did. We made what we feel is a good offer to Adam and Adam and his agent did a great job; they got a better deal. But that left‑handed bat there was nice to have, and you know, we feel like Carlos is a guy who can do that. There’s three or four other names, you know, that can do it.
Whatever comes up, I’m sure it’s going to be a good option.
Q. A lot of people were surprised that Jayson got as much money as he did. What’s your reaction to that? Were you in on the dollars? Did you have any idea?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: No, I’m not in on that. But the thing is, the money, you know, when you’re managing, the players play. The money doesn’t play. You put a ballplayer out there. You don’t put the money out there.
You know, one of our brightest spots on our team last year was a minimum‑salary guy in Ian Desmond. We had great things out of our higher‑paid players, also.
You know, when you’re managing the players, you just feel fortunate to have them and you don’t look at how much money they make and judge it. You just evaluate the talent that you have, and sometimes the guys that don’t make much money play good and sometimes the guys that make a lot of money have a down year.
You just try to make the best acquisitions that you can and have the best player development that you can have feeding your big league club and hopefully it all comes to fruition.
Q. Did you have a chance to watch Bryce Harper in the Fall League?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I only saw him in the instructional league, very impressive. Bryce, he’s met every challenge. He met the challenge of going into college early; the challenge of playing in the instructional league and in the Fall League as a young guy. He’s met every challenge tremendously. He’s fit in well with his teammates. He’s done everything that could be asked of him, and you know, he’s just on a time frame of, go play baseball and sooner or later, he’s going to be in the big leagues.
Q. In Spring Training, what is sort of the plan, just in terms of ‑‑ does he get a locker in the big league clubhouse or is he a Minor League guy?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: You kind of forget. He’s on the 40‑man roster, so he’s in the big league ‑‑ in that case, he’ll be there.
He’ll get a lot of attention, I’m sure, just as Stephen Strasburg did last year. But he’ll be in big league camp and get some at‑bats. If the at‑bats look like they are starting to get too infrequent, we will get him down to Minor League camp where he’s pitching every day.
Q. But he’ll get at‑bats in the big league exhibitions?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Yeah, we’ll get him some at‑bats.
Q. Can you talk about Stephen, how is he progressing?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: You know, my understanding is he’s doing very well, but the process is what it is. It’s a 12‑ to 18‑month process, and each goal that he tries to reach with his rehab, he’s meeting those goals. We anticipate it’s going to be 12 to 18 months just like originally said.
Q. If you guys are not able to get that big name pitcher that might still be out there, how comfortable are you with what you have in your rotation at the moment? Is it set in stone already, are there spots up for grabs or how would you look at that?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Our rotation, there’s 5‑ to seven starters there right now that Mike wanted to add somebody to it. But that’s very difficult to do. And Mike’s made great efforts to do it. As I said, there’s been one or two guys who were offered nice contracts that they got something somewhere else and stayed where they were at originally or whatever.
So it’s been difficult to add a quality starter. So as Mike continues to look for that and that opportunity to add there, we are really focusing on some bullpen stuff. We feel like our bullpen did a good job last year but maybe we can strengthen our strength.
Q. What would that look like, adding another guy who could fill a specific role or a closer?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I don’t think we would add a closer. I think as Mike has indicated, ideally we would get somebody who maybe has had some experience in the ninth inning but not necessarily a classic closer. Those guys are just not going to show up.
So I think with Clifford and Storen and Burnett, we have got guys there that are not intimidated by the ninth inning, but if we can add another guy or two, that is also comfortable pitching in the 7th; that on a given day, needs to pick up the slack and go into the ninth for us, and again, he’s not ‑‑ the ninth inning isn’t too big of a situation for him to handle.
Q. Do you see deciding on one of those guys as your closer or is it going to be maybe just all three of them will pitch the ninth inning depending on circumstance?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: In a perfect world, you have a guy who does it, but our guy who we kind of look to do that down the road is Storen and that being the case, we want to allow him to gravitate towards that.
If it happens sooner than later, it’s great, but if he gets some help doing it in the meantime, again, I’ll point to a couple of the best closers, really, didn’t pitch the ninth inning until they were about 25, 26 years old; Mariano Rivera and a few others. They kind of found their way in the seventh and eighth inning for a couple of years and when Wetteland moved on, Mariano took it over and others have done the same thing.
I think that that has proven to be a real good way for a guy to acclimate himself to that ninth inning is to get a little history behind him in the seventh and eighth, and Drew has got a little of that. He’s pitched some in the ninth. But again, we are not going to deny him if he’s clearly that option there, but we are not going to force it to happen, either.
Q. This off‑season, we have seen four managers hired, that have been with teams before. You’ve been through that experience, I wanted to ask you, what is it like to try to get that second, maybe third job, what the process is like?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: Well, you know, these jobs are precious. It’s hard to get a Major League managing job. Just as Terry Collins spoke about that last week. I completely understand what he’s saying. These jobs, Major League coaching jobs, these are precious positions. You work your whole life in baseball once you’re not a player to get into a position to coach and/or manage.
So you know, quite often what happens is you get a job because the ballclub is struggling. The Giants job ain’t going to be open, you know what I mean; Bruce Bochy has got that. There are many capable people who have gotten the opportunity to manage these clubs, and many capable people who have not gotten the opportunity to manage these clubs. When you get the opportunity, you are fortunate to get it. You don’t really reflect on, you know, whether you were lucky or whatever. You just appreciate the opportunity.
Q. As far as getting that second or third opportunity, what was the process like? Was it a matter of staying in touch with general managers?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: No, I never stayed in touch with any general managers. I just stayed in the game. I went from ’99 to really middle of ’08, and never spoke to any general managers. I just was working in the game and had various positions in the game and a position to manage arose, and I took it.
It’s not a job you apply for. These things evolve. You don’t ‑‑ people know that ‑‑ we all know each other in the game. Everybody knows what everybody wants to do. But when I was coaching, I really appreciated the opportunity to coach. Again, those are precious positions, and so I felt very fortunate to be coaching. When I got the opportunity to manage, I took it.
Q. If Adam wasn’t signed and went to Chicago, there were stories written that Zimm was upset; has Mike talked to him since?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I’ve talked to him and we have texted a lot here lately.
My message to Zimm was before Adam left, I hope we get Adam left, but if we don’t, Mike is going to have something there. So when this has happened, with Jayson being there, it’s got be to comforting for Zimm to know that we are not tossing in the towel. But there are going to be other examples between now and Opening Day that Zimm will be encouraged by.
Q. How challenging is it with turnover one year to the next in terms of free agency and trades in terms of how to handle that?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think we’ll have four or five guys from our bullpen last year that I have a lot of history with and I know maybe what the limits are that they can go to. When you get new guys there is an adjustment period that you can go through and hopefully figure that out through conversations and through Spring Training and watching them work and how they respond on a second day and how they respond on three out of four days work or something.
Spring Training is a pretty long process in today’s world. By Opening Day, you have a pretty good feel for what a guy can handle.
Q. What improvements would you like to see in Nyjer?
JIM RIGGLEMAN: I think that, basically, the thing that we want Nyjer to do is get on base, a little higher rate, and to be there to be knocked in.
The game is full of statistics, and there’s so many numbers out there. But when it comes to offense, you’re either knocking them in or you’re scoring. The rest of it is a little bit of eyewash.
We want Nyjer to score and to score, he’s got to be on base. We know he can do it. He’s shown he can do it. We just hope that he’s getting on base at a little higher clip, and that’s going to mean a little improvement against left‑handed pitching basically.
As you read this, Drew Storen is probably either in class or studying for one. Such is the life of a young professional baseball player, right? Not exactly. A Wall Street Journal study found that only 26 players and managers on last year’s rosters graduated from a four-year college. That averages to less than one per team. But we’ve known for a while, Storen is not the average Major Leaguer. While others hide from the media, Storen gladly obliges to every interview request. Nor is he the average guy. Storen grew up playing H.O.R.S.E. with then-Pacers star Reggie Miller and is friends with Gordon Hayward and Toby Gerhart. Based on these aberrations from the “norm,” you shouldn’t be surprised that while other Major League stars spend their offseason either back home, catching up with family, or playing in fall and winter leagues, Storen is immersed in student life at Stanford University, living in a dorm and moving closer towards earning a degree in Product Design.
Then again, it wasn’t long ago that Storen was last taking classes at Stanford–a year and a half ago to be exact. At that time, he had no Major League contract, but was pacing the Cardinals in wins, saves, ERA and appearances. Then, on June 9, 2009, the Nationals selected Storen with the 10th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Storen signed less than 24 hours later, breezed through three levels of Minor League ball and played in the Arizona Fall League, where he first befriended Stephen Strasburg. He started off the 2010 season saving Strasburg’s first Minor League game, showing him how to use an inflatable pool raft as a mattress on long bus trips and answering more media questions about Strasburg than about himself. Storen made his Big League debut on May 17, less than a year after signing. Despite how much has changed in so little time, despite how many planes, buses and trains he has been on in the past year, Storen remains focused on his goals, especially when it comes to getting an education. “I think I’d be disappointed in wasting a Stanford education,” Storen says. “I need to utilize it. If baseball doesn’t work out, I can fall back on my education.”
Perhaps it is that same drive to see goals to completion that will ensure Storen’s success in the Major Leagues. His work ethic is matched with a deeply competitive nature. He lives for the spotlight and enjoys the pressure, at one point admitting he prefers playing in a stadium of booing fans. “That gets you fired up,” Storen said. “Obviously it’s great to have a good crowd and I’ve gotten great ovations every time I’ve thrown [at Nationals Park]. So that’s always cool, but it’s always a lot more fun when people are cheering against you.”
Storen was at season’s best form when the Nationals traded away All-Star Matt Capps to the Twins for catching prospect Wilson Ramos at the end of July. Fans looked to Storen to “seal the deal” as the Nationals closer. He didn’t. At his worst, he gave up four runs in the ninth inning, including a walk-off home run to Jayson Werth, to lose the game at Citzens Bank Park. But manager Jim Riggleman explained that the team has different plans and is, perhaps, a little more patient than the fans. “I don’t think we’ve anointed anybody as the closer,” he said. “We’re hoping someday Drew is that guy that can pitch in the ninth. We’re not saying it’s now. We’re not saying it’s next year.”
Some fans expressed disappointment over his late season performance, expecting Storen to shine when given the opportunity to play a bigger role out of the bullpen. However, despite how fans felt regarding whether or not Storen lived up to the great expectations before him, Storen still ended the season with favorable numbers. He did not allow a run in 38 or 54 appearances while allowing just 14.8 percent of inherited runners to score, best among all Nationals relievers. Storen was only given the opportunity to save the game seven times, all in the last two months of the season, so for all the premature discussion concerning whether or not he is the closer of the future, time will only tell to what capacity Storen best serves the Nats.
Friday, August 13 was a lucky day for patients at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in northwest D.C. Washington Nationals players Drew Storen and Kevin Mench joined First Base Coach Dan Radison for a visit to the hospital, which specializes in treating patients with physical disabilities caused by spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as a variety of other neurological and orthopedic conditions.
In addition to handing out hats, posing for photos and signing autographs, the players took part in rehabilitative activities and were able to see firsthand what patients experience as part of their rehab process. Storen, for instance, was challenged to a game of “Stick Ball,” with the goal of scoring points by hitting the ball between the wheel chairs.
“I enjoyed spending time and interacting with the patients at the National Rehabilitation Hospital,” the rookie pitcher said. “While it was tough to see the hardships they’re going through, I hope that our visit brightened their day for at least a little while.”
Radison and Mench were also given the opportunity to show off their competitive sides when they were invited to play Wii Baseball by a group of young patients who were eager to find out if the Big Leaguers were as skilled at the videogame as they were on the field.
“The kids and adults are here for rehab and we were able to bring a smile to their faces,” Mench said. “Anytime you can bring a smile to someone’s face, you can change someone’s life.”
Drew Storen has always been a favorite on Notes from NatsTown and as we said before in The Storen Identity, Storen might not be Jason Bourne but he is special. He can’t fend off 30 people at once, dodge bullets or drive a car like Jeff Gordon during a high speed chase while weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. Well, he might be able to do all of that… he doesn’t know. He hasn’t tried. He won’t need to if he continues to sit batters down the same way Bourne puts bad guys on their back. They are one in the same, two people extremely good at what they do. He has this All-Star break off but it might not be long before he doesn’t.
I was watching you today running fly routes. Are you going to give your friend and Vikings running back Toby Gerhart some words of wisdom?
Far from it. I’m not very good at that.
You didn’t play football in high school, right?
No, I didn’t. I thought about punting my senior year.
Were you an avid soccer player?
Nope, just an avid punter at tailgates. So then I was like, yeah, I might try to do this. But then senior year I had all these official visits I needed to go on, so I couldn’t play.
Have you already requested a Brett Favre autograph?
I need to. I need to get his jersey so I can rock it during football season, even though I’m not a big Vikings fan. But I will be now.
Now to baseball–how have the first two months in the Majors been for you?
It’s going well. I’m starting to kind of get in my routine. I’m happy with my role. I’m happy with the way we’re turning things around here the last couple of days. Hopefully we can start the second half on a positive note and be in good shape.
Everyone in the bullpen seems to have great chemistry. How has that helped with your acclimation to the Majors–being able to freely ask questions and joke around?
It’s been my favorite part–such a great group of guys. There’s a lot of good camaraderie. That’s kind of been the biggest help for me. I wear out Tyler Walker. I really wore him out the first couple of weeks, asking him questions. Capps, all those guys have been awesome. I’ve been really fortunate.
You went from the Stanford cafeteria to the Nats clubhouse over the past year. Can you describe the past year.
I had just moved down to Potomac at this time. But it feels like it’s a lot longer than a year ago. It’s been crazy. But I’ve been fortunate. It’s one of those things where I appreciate where I’m at and I’m very thankful for that, but at the same time, I don’t want to go back, so I want to make sure I keep doing my stuff every day.
You’re the go-to guy for questions about Stephen Strasburg. Have you answered more questions about Strasburg than yourself?
Definitely. I would say so, which is fine, because I’ve had a front-row seat to the whole thing. So it’s been really cool for me to be able to watch it. It’s fine with me. I don’t mind the attention.
You’ve inherited 21 base runners but only three have scored. What has been the key to minimizing the damage?
I just go in there and don’t really try to worry about it. You worry about each pitch at a time and not try to think of, “Hey I haven’t had any inherited runners score.” Of course, I thought about that the day I did let my first one score.
So you jinxed yourself more or less?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. So you just kind of go out there and that’s your main goal, just to get guys out. And I like those situations. I’ve always been a fan of going in those situations.
Is going in with runners on base different than coming in the game in the ninth inning? Have you had to change your mentality now that you’re not closing?
No, not necessarily. I think it’s pretty much the same thing because it’s just minimizing the game and looking at one pitch at a time. I feel worse when they’re somebody else’s runners because it’s not fair to the other guy if I go in there give up his runs because I don’t do my job. It’s not necessarily that much different. I put that same pressure on myself.