VIERA, Fla. - Judging solely by the numbers, last night was another forgettable outing for right-hander Drew Storen.
Storen pitched one inning in a 4-2 loss to the Astros, blowing a save opportunity, absorbing the loss and watching his spring ERA balloon to 6.43 after seven outings.
Rough springs are nothing new for Storen. Last year, he was limited to two appearances before surgery to remove a small bone fragment from his right elbow, a procedure that cost him half a season. Two years ago, he posted an 11.12 ERA in 11 spring relief appearances.
So what will the Nationals do to fix their struggling one-time closer?
Manager Davey Johnson thinks he has an idea: more work.
Power arms, said Johnson, need special treatment. So he's told pitching coach Steve McCatty to start getting Storen more work.
"I told McCatty, I think, four or five days ago, power arms always take longer," Johnson said. "Two days' rest in between is not good for him. I want him throwing every other day, back-to-back, even two innings. Especially Storen, who didn't have a really full season."
Henry Rodriguez will get the same treatment, because he didn't have the opportunity to play winter ball after August surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. Rodriguez worked a scoreless ninth inning Saturday night, striking out one.
But Storen is clearly a priority. The Nationals publicly have said they aren't worried about his mental state after blowing a lead in the National League Division Series clincher against the Cardinals in October. General manager Mike Rizzo has professed confidence that Storen can bounce back, yet still went out and signed free agent Rafael Soriano to supplant him as closer.
How does Johnson explain Storen's spring struggles?
First, the manager said Storen has to worry less on velocity and remember to pitch. More work means more opportunities to pitch and, hopefully, less focus on what are currently unpleasant results.
"He's a little too deliberate," Johnson said of Storen. "He's thinking too much. When you try to be that precise, I guess I would call it, it's kind of paralysis by analysis. I want him to trust his stuff and pitch. He's got great stuff, he knows how to pitch."
It's worth noting that both Storen and Tyler Clippard struggled badly during spring training 2011, and Clippard was very vocal about asking for an increased workload to work through the rough patch. Clippard, who had a 7.84 ERA in 10 relief outings, had a career year, posting a 1.87 ERA and making the All-Star team. All Storen did was save 43 games.