Familiar surroundings are important to Drew Storen.
Storen found a home in Washington with the Nationals in 2010, changing roles while helping his team to the playoffs in 2012 and 2014. He was the Nationals first choice in the 2009 draft and made his Major League debut less than a full year after the draft, making brief stops at all every minor league level along the way. Storen signed on June 10, 2009 and pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning against St. Louis on May 17, 2010.
The 29-year old righthander, who is a bit shorter than the 6’1” listed in the Reds’ media guide, became a huge presence on the mound for the Nationals in the late innings
He had little time to settle in anywhere in the minor leagues but once he advanced to the big club, he flourished. Storen was 4-4 with a 3.58 ERA in 54 games, earning five saves his rookie years. The next season, Storen notched 43 saves in 73 games with a 6-3 record and a 2.75 ERA. He missed 89 games after having bone spurs removed from his elbow in 2012 but recovered to pitch 37 games building a 3-1 record with a 2.37 ERA and four saves for a team that surprised prognosticators to win the National League East Division.
“No one expected us to do anything in DC and things just clicked,” said Storen, who believes the same thing coud happen in Cincinnati. “We have some hungry guys here (in Cincinnati).”
He was 1-1 with a save in the playoffs against the Cardinals but gave up four runs in the ninth inning of the deciding game five.
Storen experienced the playoffs again in 2014 after leading National relievers with a 1.12 ERA in 65 appearances. In his last three years in Washington, he collected 43 saves in 191 appearances.
.The business of baseball took Storen out of his comfort level. The Nationals traded him to Toronto for centerfielder Ben Revere in January, 2016. Storen suffered through 38 games with the playoff bound Blue Jays with a dismal 1-3 record with a 6.21 ERA and three saves. Toronto sent him to Seattle near the trading deadline for Joaquin Benoit.
“It was a big thing for me last year,” Storen said. “You take for granted that comfort zone of knowing everybody. You have to start over its different.”
The Reds signed Storen to a one-year deal on January 3 and Storen used his familiarity with Tucker Barnhart, who was his catcher at Brownsville High School near Indianapolis. He went on the Reds’ winter caravan at the end of the month.
“It is like buying a house. You have to check off a lot of boxes,” Storen said. “I talked to Tucker Barnhart a lot. I knew what I was getting into. I knew some of the guys coming in and going on the caravan helped. I’ve been learning everybody’s name. It’s been good so far.”
Reds’ manager Bryan Price has Storen, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Tony Cingrani in mind including Storen for late innings work and doesn’t necessarily want to designate a “closer.”
“At this point I want to say no (to naming a closer),” Price said. “Should there be a recipe that plays out, typically you want a one inning or one plus inning guy because you might have three or four games in a row. With multiple inning guys like them, you don’t need to designate a closer. I would really like to look at the end of the year and see Storen, Iglesias, Cingrani and Lorenzen in particular to have some saves. It is asking a lot for four guys to be comfortable pitching in the last inning.”
Storen and Cingrani have done it. Iglesias had some save opportunities last season.
“Lorenzen didn’t have a lot of chances but I think he’s built for that,” Price said.
Storen is looking forward to the opportunity and is fine with an undefined role
“We have a young bullpen,” Storen said. “Hopefully, I can help those guys out. I get a chance to get some big outs late in the game. You’ve seen the evolution of the bullpen. You’ve seen the how important they view all those last three innings. We have a unique situation with Iglesias and Lorenzen, who can go multiple innings. It’s going to be a fluid situation. Whatever gets me the ball in a big spot late in the game, is fine with me.”
The diminished expectations of a young team didn’t deter his decision to come to the Reds.
“I think we really do have the ability to surprise people,” Storen said. “We have young talent mixed with a veteran presence. People don’t have expectations for us. We can get out there and do our thing. I’ve learned throughout the years that worrying about expectations can only complicate things. You have to take care of stuff in the bubble. You take care of the guy next to you. You need to make sure everybody is pulling in the right direction.”