PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - There's no question Drew Storen's early results haven't been good. The second-year reliever has a 18.00 ERA in three appearances, and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits in the Nationals' 14-9 win over the Astros yesterday.
But the Nationals aren't concerned with the results just yet because they reflect a pitcher throwing without his full repertoire. They've asked Storen to throw more fastballs this spring, hoping to reduce his reliance on his slider. His fastball sits in the mid-90s with good sinking action, and the Nationals are hoping to save his arm by moving him away from the slider. With one less pitch this spring, though, Storen's results are going to reflect a work in progress.
"He might give up a run or two when he's predominantly throwing fastballs when you know he can get them out with a breaking ball," manager Jim Riggleman said. "But that's part of the process he needs to go through."
Storen looked better yesterday than he did in his first two outings of the spring; the Nationals failed to stop a couple ground balls behind him, but he was sharper overall than he was on March 4 against the Braves, when he allowed three runs in the ninth inning.
"I thought he threw the ball a lot better than in the previous outing, because in the previous outing, it was breaking ball, breaking ball, breaking ball," Riggleman said. "That's not going to be good for his arm. He's going to lose his fastball if he doesn't throw more of them. He's got a good enough fastball and a good enough breaking ball that we want to get him away from just feeling like he can have that wipeout breaking ball all the time to get his outs.
In his rookie season, Storen threw his fastball 60.4 percent of the time, relying on his slider 28.8 percent and his curveball 10 percent. There's not a set ratio for how much he should throw his fastball, but it's probably safe to say he needs a more drastic fastball/off-speed split than 60-40.
"As the spring goes, he'll get back to where he's throwing what feels good in his hand at that moment," Riggleman said. "But that fastball command has got to feel good."