VIERA, Fla. -- Drew Storen, like most closers, was a starter first -- all the way through high school and a little bit in college. So it’s no surprise he learned to pitch with a windup.
What is surprising is that he’s retained it all the way through his college career and into professional baseball.
Most closers don’t use one, but when there are no runners on base, Storen will. And at that, his windup has a few quirks.
Storen brings his hands up, then pauses for a moment as he drops them back down before firing to the plate. He saw Dan Haren do something similar, and liked how the Diamondbacks starter was able to disrupt hitters’ timing with it. So Storen, ever on a quest to build a better mousetrap, added it to his delivery. He likes the dual effects of the pause -- that it gives him time to gather himself while making hitters uncomfortable. And he said Nationals coaches haven’t minded so far.
“I’m going to do it until they tell me not to,” he said.
The Nationals’ presumptive closer of the future threw live batting practice on Monday, facing major-league hitters for the first time. His first pitch went about 58 feet -- “it doesn’t always have to be pretty,” he said -- but looked good from there, breaking Nyjer Morgan’s bat with a hard sinker in his final pitches of the day.
He said the live batting practice session was one of the best indicators he’s had to date about how his stuff will play with major-league hitters. “If you’re changing your arm speed or your arm angle, a catcher can tell you, but hitters will really tell you,” Storen said.
And with each progressive step, Storen is getting more and more antsy for Thursday’s start of the spring schedule -- something he said he’s been anticipating since he got the schedule in January.
“You just kind of look at it, and it says, ‘St. Louis Cardinals. New York Yankees. New York Mets,’” Storen said. “Well, it’s not the farm team anymore. It’s the real New York Yankees, and they’re wearing the real uniforms now. It’s Derek Jeter. That’s when it started to sink in, and ever since then, I’ve been kind of fired up about it.”
But Storen stopped short of saying he felt the need to put on a show and prove he deserves to make the major-league squad in his first full professional season.
“There’s kind of a fine line between going out there and having fun and loving where you’re at -- and obviously I’m happy to be here -- but at the same time, I’m here to do something,” Storen said. “I’ve kind of got to be in the middle of that, of sticking with what’s made me successful.”