Storen starts 2014 where he left off in 2013

NEW YORK - You know how all spring, I kept noting that spring training statistics don’t mean anything?

I’m sure you got tired of reading it. Heck, I got tired of writing it. But while it’s certainly nice to see your team’s players dominate during spring training and post impressive numbers, there is no guarantee whatsoever that those stats will carry into the games that actually matter.

Take Drew Storen, for example.

Storen made seven Grapefruit League appearances this spring, working 6 2/3 innings. He allowed nine hits and six runs. He struck out seven and walked six. He had an opponents’ batting average of .310 and a 2.25 WHIP.

Yeah, the numbers weren’t great. But Storen has never been a guy who excels in spring training. He has a 6.93 ERA in 38 career Grapefruit League games, and got absolutely lit up in the spring of 2011 before he went out and saved 43 games that year.

storen-red-throwing-sidebar.jpgThe regular season comes around, the games intensify, and Storen is ready to go.

“That’s just part of it,” Storen said last night. “A lot of spring is just getting yourself physically in shape and feeling good and kind of messing around with some things and getting some confidence. When the lights come on, it’s a little more fun. A little more adrenaline.”

Storen has faced six batters in his two appearances so far this season. He’s retired all six, and four of those have been via the strikeout. Last night in a 1-2-3 seventh inning, Storen’s fastball averaged 94.4 mph, according to Brooks Baseball, and was clocked as high as 95.4 mph.

“His heater’s a lot better than it was in spring,” manager Matt Williams said, when asked what has stood out about Storen through two regular season games. “But again, he’s working on stuff. He’s working on his slide step, doing all that stuff in spring training. That’s a process. But he’s been good. I just think his fastball has been better because he’s got a little more adrenaline going.”

Storen had an up-and-down 2013 season in which he was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse for a brief time. He finished the season with a 4.52 ERA, but hidden in that number is that he was tremendous after returning from the minors, allowing just three runs in his final 21 appearances of the year, with a .477 opponents’ OPS in that time.

He’s carried that momentum into 2014, even with the statistical success not being there in spring.

“Ending last year on a good note and just attacking hitters, and use that defense behind you,” Storen said of what sparked the hot start. “It’s been fun. It’s really important to get off to a good start and coming up in big spots, too, when you have close ballgames.”

On a slightly different note, Storen isn’t the only Nationals pitcher to rack up the strikeouts early this season. Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen combined to strike out seven of the 10 batters they faced yesterday, and as a team, Nats pitchers already have 31 strikeouts, which according to Elias is the most by any team in modern MLB history through the first two games of a season.

What’s the deal there?

“I feel like strikeouts just kinda happen,” Storen said. “When you’re attacking guys, you end up missing bats. If you go up trying to get strikeouts, that’s usually when it doesn’t happen. If you go up there trying to punch everybody out, it’s usually gonna get you into more trouble. When you attack those guys, you end up missing bats and it ends up working out.”

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