One of the Nationals' top prospects is a step closer to the major leagues. Reliever Drew Storen, taken 10th overall in the 2009 draft, was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse today. Storen, who had an 0.96 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings at Double-A Harrisburg this season, was ready for a new challenge, player development director Doug Harris said.
"He was ready to go," Harris said. "We're excited to get him there."
Storen, seen by many as the Nationals' closer of the future, has impressed the Nationals with a starter's repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball and a sharp breaking ball. The Stanford product made a brief appearance at Harrisburg last year and started the season there this year after pitching in major league camp for the Nationals this spring.
He said he found out last night after Harrisburg's game in Reading; manager Randy Knorr, pitching coach Randy Tomlin and hitting coach Troy Gingrich were all there to give Storen the good news.
"This is a big moment," Storen said. "It's just one step closer, it's something that, it's exciting, but at the same time, it's not where the train stops. It's another challenge for me, and that's what I'm excited for, a new challenge."
He told few people last night, calling his parents but keeping the news to himself otherwise. Now that it's out, Storen said his phone is "blowing up" with congratulatory calls and text messages from friends. His drive from Harrisburg to Syracuse through the mountains of Pennsylvania isn't exactly helping.
"It's a total zoo right now," he said.
Storen pitched well in his first few outings of spring training, but gave up some runs later in camp as big league hitters started to adjust to his stuff. That's the biggest difference between what he saw this spring and at Harrisburg, and at Syracuse, he'll get the chance to test himself against hitters who aren't as willing to chase bad pitches.
"The biggest thing I saw was, I would throw what I thought was a good breaking ball (in spring training), and the guy would take," Storen said. "It's more of an approach of true professional hitters. Double-A hitters don't have quite the same approach. They have just as much power, but big league hitters know their approach. I'll see guys in Triple-A that do that."
It will be the first time since last summer Storen hasn't been pitching on the same staff with No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, who is still at Harrisburg. The two are frequently lumped together; an ESPN Magazine story called them "The Ace and The Closer," and Storen has served as something of right-hand man for Strasburg and a buffer for the crushing fan and media attention that's followed the Senators since Strasburg got there.
"It'll be like my season last year. People won't be hanging out at the hotels waiting for his autograph," Storen said. "I don't really worry about it too much. It's kind of cool getting lumped with him. It's pretty good company to get lumped with. At the same time, I need to make sure I'm on my own path. I certainly enjoy having him on my team. (The attention is) not something I put too much stock in."
Harris said there's no timetable for when Storen could reach the majors, but saw plenty for Storen to work on when he's at Syracuse.
"It's a higher level for more mature players," Harris said. "It's nothing revolutionary that we're really hoping to accomplish. It's a general progression."