Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty gave some insight on what wants Triple-A Syracuse pitching coach Greg Booker and minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams to work on with Drew Storen as the right-hander works on several mechanical issues in his attempt to get back to the nationals.
Storen was optioned to Syracuse following Friday's doubleheader against the Mets.
McCatty spoke with Storen after he received the news and described as a tough, but thorough sitdown. McCatty was asked by a reporter if Storen was receptive to the talk.
"When we talked afterwards? I don't think receptive is the word I would use," McCatty said. "But I did speak to him after the game."
McCatty talked about the mental side for Storen, and dealing with failure for the first time in his career, whether it was Game 5 of the National League Division Series last season or his struggles to begin this campaign.
"A lot of it is mental, confidence-wise," McCatty said. "Any other issues that might be involved, I am not going to go into. But he just needs to get back out there (to work on his) confidence and when you don't trust your mechanics. Having things go bad, it is tough to have to pitch in a big league game. It is not fair to Drew or to the team. We got to go back and get him right. Where (he can work on) his mechanics and pitch on a regular basis and come back and throw like he is capable of throwing."
But the major mechanical issue they want to Storen to change is the trademark stiff left leg he used to load up and throw each pitch. McCatty wants Storen to work on a more traditional leg lift that will help speed up his delivery.
"His decision a couple of years was to go to that stiff hip slide thing. I always thought the other one looked more athletic. I liked it better, he was quicker to the plate," McCatty noted. "But he had 43 saves doing it that way. Right now he is flying off - his arm slot, release point is not the same.
"Everything gets affected. It is a snowball effect. Right now, he is going to go back to the original leg lift, doing things you need to do to hold runners on. And also work on that arm slot back, getting that release point back and getting that confidence back."
McCatty felt the stiff hip set-up severely affected Storen's timing to the plate. Advance scouts noticed this and opposing runners went after stolen bases. It was a problem he didn't have to face as much as a closer because most of the time Storen would arrive to begin the inning, without runners on base.
"The stiff hip, that is the way he likes to load, makes him slow to the plate," McCatty said. "We all know that we have a hard enough time with base stealers as it is. But when you are firing up a 1.6 (seconds) to the plate, that is part of your job."
It is a problem that the relief corps has had all season. Too many runners are gaining extra bases against Nats pitchers because catchers are receiving pitches too late. McCatty said Storen was able to do this when he first arrived in the system; now he needs to get back to a quicker delivery.
"Everybody has got to get better. (We are) trying to get back to a more athletic position where it is a lot easier to repeat your pitches. We talked about it and that is what he wants to do. That is the way he did it before," McCatty said.
"He can be quick. We know in the minor leagues, coming up, he was a little bit slow, he did get quicker. Is he going to be a 1.05 (seconds) guy? No. Can he be under 1.35 or 1.30? Yes. I know he can be quicker. Especially in seventh or eighth innings, that is a critical part of the game is holding base runners. Other people have done it, Clip (Tyler Clippard) has been pretty good at it lately. As I always tell them, you are always better when you are quicker."
McCatty said it is important that Storen has the correct mindset when facing this demotion. He would like to see the 25-year-old not feel sorry for himself but instead go out and attack these changes.
"Hopefully, it is not much (of a process)," McCatty said of Storen pitching in the minors. "It all depends on how you want to take it. We have all been sent down. You can get down with the attitude that you are mad and take your time doing it and be down there longer. Or go down and have the mindset that I am going to get this conquered as quick as a I can and get back to the big leagues. What he does and how he goes about his business is up to him."