How will Storen respond? (plus AFL updates)

After two straight subpar outings to open his Arizona Fall League season, Nationals farmhand Ryan Perry pitched a gem yesterday.

Perry threw four perfect innings for the Salt River Rafters, striking out four. The 6-foot-4 right-hander finished out the regular season on an absolute tear for Double-A Harrisburg after being converted to a starter, and could continue to creep his way back up the organizational depth chart with a strong AFL performance.

Also impressing out in Arizona is center fielder Brian Goodwin, who went 3-for-4 with a home run and a walk yesterday. The Nationals’ possible center fielder of the future is now hitting .294 with three home runs in 35 at-bats.

First baseman Matthew Skole went 1-for-4 with a walk and a two-run homer yesterday, dropping the Nationals’ 2012 Minor League Player of the Year’s AFL average to a lowly .400 and leaving his OPS at 1.214.

Get it together, Matthew.

Switching gears a bit, according to a report by The Associated Press, the cutoff for super-two status this year will be at two years and 139 days of service time, a cutoff which will allow Nats reliever Drew Storen to be arbitration-eligible this offseason.

Storen has eclipsed that level of service time, giving him a fourth year of arbitration eligibility, as compared to the usual three. That essentially means that instead of making somewhere just north of $500,000 for 2013, Storen will be in line for a more significant raise.

Looking ahead about four months, one of the main stories entering spring training this season will likely be how Storen will respond from that crushing blown save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, in which he was one strike away from sending the Nats to the NLCS only to allow four ninth-inning runs in a 9-7 loss.

Battling back from failure is part of the job when you’re a closer. You won’t make it as a ninth-inning guy in the big leagues if you can’t learn from blown saves, put them behind you and move on.

This, of course, wasn’t just any other blown save. The magnitude of that spot plus the shocking manner in which that game ended left Storen a bit shaken immediately afterward. While he received plenty of positive feedback and support from fans on Twitter, he also was subjected to a number of nasty messages, as well, and has yet to post on the social media platform since the blown save.

But Storen’s a tough guy. He battled back from elbow surgery to post a 2.37 ERA in 37 regular season appearances, regaining his closer’s job by showing a nasty repertoire which might have even been a notch better than what he utilized in 2011 when he recorded 43 saves.

Storen will surely use that NLDS Game 5 memory as motivation this offseason as he tries to improve going into 2013. He has a good head on his shoulders, works hard and is one of the savvier 25-year-olds you’ll find in the major leagues.

Storen will earn a nice raise this offseason, and then all eyes will be on him in spring training as he tries to bounce back from the lowest moment of his big league career.

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