The Washington Nationals will be keeping an eye on relief pitcher Drew Storen not because of the right elbow injury that he suffered last spring training, but a back injury which hampered him at the end of 2012. Although it was kept quiet, those around the team witnessed Storen walking around the clubhouse with ice applied to calm down spasms that he was experiencing.
CBSSports.com reported last Friday that the back was an issue when Storen pitched in the post season. It bothered him throughout the five game NL Divisional Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. In the decisive final game Storen could not hold a two run ninth inning lead as the Nationals lost 9-7. Washington outfielder Jayson Werth said that Storen was hurting worse than he let on.
Storen has not used the injury as an excuse for his performance and neither does manager Davey Johnson. Johnson is quoted in the Washington Post as saying that Storen simply did not throw strikes. The manger felt that Storen tried to be too fine and didn’t challenge the St. Louis hitters. Whatever the case was everyone can agree that Storen did not get it done.
The NLDS is history, but Storen’s back may still be an issue. Nothing has been said about it in spring training which is a good sign. The Nationals have been in Viera, FL for almost two weeks. If Storen had shown any signs of being bothered by his back someone would have reported it by now. Washington hopes that Storen’s back is okay, because they plan on him competing for the closers role with Tyler Clippard and new addition Rafael Soriano. Storen is not expected to beat out Soriano, but the Nationals think that he will be a key component as a setup man and good insurance in case anything happens to their projected closer.
If Storen were to miss time due to his back, it would be the second consecutive season he missed opening day. Last season it was the right elbow which caused him to begin the year on the disabled list. Storen did not return full time until August.
Washington is fortunate in that they have three good arms capable of performing in the closers role. Whoever does not get the job will be good setup men. If Storen can not go early, then the Nationals will rely on Clippard and others to bridge the gap until Soriano takes the mound. However, life would be a lot easier for everyone if Storen is healthy.
It may not be a major injury at the moment, but Washington will be keeping an eye on Storen and his sore back.