Controversially, the Nationals optioned struggling reliever and ex-closer Drew Storen to Triple A Syracuse after today’s doubleheader. The move corresponded with Ryan Mattheus‘ return from the disabled list.
Storen’s demotion is not so surprising given how he has been this year, and especially recently. He allowed three runs while recording just two outs today, even though he reportedly had a 102 degree fever, jumping his ERA to a Harenesque 5.95. This season has been a trying one for him, as he adapts to not being the Nats’ closer for the first time in deference to Rafael Soriano.
Tyler Clippard, Storen’s fellow late-inning reliever and close friend, was emotional after hearing the news and had some very choice words about the management’s handling of Storen. He was critical of the Soriano signing without mentioning his teammate by name, saying: “You basically send a guy a message this offseason for having one bad game that he’s not the guy for the job.” Clippard did concede that the move was reasonable, but was upset with how things escalated to this point. “I think it’s going to help him. I think it’s just been handled very poorly.”
Clippard is right. After Storen’s confidence-damaging blowup in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS, the management pulled the rug from under him by signing another player to do his job. The team is reacting to Storen’s loss of confidence, which it manufactured. However, the onus should have been and now is on Storen himself. The best players can overcome adversity, and he needs to prove himself to the Nats. Clippard acknowledged this, saying “I think he needs to go down and regroup, get out of this environment, take a deep breath and regather himself… I’ve been through adversity in my career, so I know how to handle it. This is a tough day. He’s going to be part of this organization for a long time, I hope, because he’s good, and we need him.”
Hopefully Storen can take these words to heart. The team treated him unfairly, but he needs to be able to handle that and rebound from it. No player will ever have everything handed to them throughout their career. This should be a humbling experience for him, and one that he can come back from. If he does, I would be surprised if he is not the Nats’ closer in 2015 after Soriano’s contract expires. Storen should also follow the example of a former teammate he’ll find in Syracuse. Danny Espinosa has rediscovered himself in Triple A, hitting again like he should be, and stating a case to return to the majors (and replace Steve Lombardozzi). Redemption is possible, but it’s all up to Drew now.