When Drew Storen sprinted in from the Nationals Park bullpen for the first time this season, he heard "Bad Company" blaring over the stadium speakers, saw the fans give him a standing ovation and thought back on the last four months, which have been pretty rough on him professionally.
"It was pretty emotional for me, to be honest with you," Storen said. "It's hard to explain, but it is honestly one of the best feelings in the world to have the fans appreciate me being back out there. ... I went out there and picked up the ball and just kind of took a deep breath and thought, 'This feels really good.' It was nice."
Storen had missed the Nationals' first 89 games of the season after having surgery to remove a bone chip in his right elbow, but he was activated earlier today and found himself getting thrown into action right away.
The guy who saved 43 games last year was called on to work the ninth inning of a 9-4 ballgame, and he set down the Mets in order. Storen threw nine pitches, five for strikes, and even managed to retire David Wright, who seemingly can't be beaten these days.
"I thought he was a little rusty, but he threw strikes and they certainly weren't centering on them," manager Davey Johnson said. "So I was real pleased. He had a chance, and 1-2-3. I figured he was going to throw a bunch of pitches first time out, but that was good."
Storen had great movement on his two-seam fastball today, which came in at 92-93 mph and had hard sink down in the zone.
"That's actually something I've been working on, something that has improved a lot," Storen said. "Last year, I had good movement on my two-seamer and I could throw it, but it faded. Now I feel like I've got a little more depth to it. It's all I threw. I didn't throw any four-seamers today. And I felt good throwing it."
Storen said he started really getting the feel for his two-seamer his last couple rehab outings before being activated. If he can continue to get that kind of sink on the two-seamer, his slider will be even more effective than it has been in the past.
"No doubt. You see the best guys in the game throw that same pitch for 58 feet and then it goes one way or the other," Storen said. "It's all about tricking the hitter and trying to have a little deception there."
The situation he was brought into in the ninth inning might have been a perfect first test for Storen, given that it was a five-run game and he could have gotten by with a few mistakes. He'll be used in higher-leverage situations as the season goes on and he gets more innings under his belt, but this was a nice first test.
"Obviously, I'd like to be on the winning side of that, but it's good," Storen said. "It was good to get my feet wet. Facing a guy like David Wright out of the gate, I wouldn't want it any other way. It was a good test for me."