With all of the talk surrounding pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s being shut down the Washington Nationals best reliever may be rounding into form at just the right time. Drew Storen is starting to show the form that notched 43 saves in 2011. Washington should make him the closer in post season.
Storen was slated to be the closer going into 2012, but an elbow injury put him on the disabled list. He returned to the team on July 19. After getting off to a rocky start, Storen began to round into form. Since September 14 he has pitched 9 1/3 innings giving up one run on five hits with no walks. Storen has two saves and one blown save which he turned into a win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
While Storen was on the disabled list and after his return, Tyler Clippard took over the closers role. In 37 save opportunities he has done the job 32 times and blown five. Clippard has done a very good job coming out of the pen, but has struggled as of late. Against the Milwaukee Brewers he gave up three runs on four hits. Tuesday night he gave up one run on two hits against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Clippard has not looked confident or in command of his pitches. Some of it may have been the stress of trying to close with a pennant on the line. It may be because of fatigue. Whatever the reason, Clippard has been no guarantee coming out of the pen.
In September manager Davey Johnson began putting together his pitching staff for the post season. He knew who his starters would be, but may not have been sure about his bullpen. Johnson’s plan seemed to be sticking with Clippard as long as he did the job. If Clippard faltered then Storen would be given a chance to close. Clippard has faltered and Storen is getting a chance.
Storen’s fastball seems to have returned. Like most closers it is his signature pitch. Storen has also added a 94 mile per hour slider. If he continues to have control of these pitches the Nationals will be in good shape.
On Tuesday night Storen looked sharp. Against the Phillies he pitched a perfect ninth inning getting three ground ball outs in nine pitches.
At the moment, Johnson plans to have Storen and Clippard share the role of closer. With pressure games night after night there is nothing wrong with this plan. It is probably the best plan. However, if Johnson has to decide on a permanent closer it should be Storen. He has shown enough to reclaim the role while Clippard has been shaky.
Though Strasburg has and will be missed, the Nationals problem is not their starting pitching. It is the bullpen that is a question mark.
Storen may have returned to form just in time to strengthen it.