Healthy competition in the bullpen
Storen, undoubtedly, had his best full season in 2014. After going 2-1 with a 1.12 ERA in 65 appearances, the big right-hander saw his ERA ascend to 3.44 just last year. Part of the reason for this was his second-half struggles. Before the All-Star break, the former first-rounder was lights out, posting a 1.89 ERA with 27 saves in 33.1 innings pitched.
The part of Storen’s game that impresses me most, is his accuracy. He limits the free pass while maximizing strikeouts. In his career, he has yet to walk more than 22 batters in a season. Last year, he walked 16, striking out 67. During the 2011 campaign, he walked 20 while sitting down 74.
After the Washington Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon, he was bumped out of his closing role and pushed into the eighth inning. For a pitcher that is having success, no matter who he is, confidence will waver after watching your team go out and get someone to replace you. The resulting fact was watching his ERA balloon to 5.82 during the back-half of the season. His year ended in frustration, breaking his thumb on a locker room door after blowing a lead against the New York Mets. It’s easy to draw conclusions as to why these conflicts were apparent. Changing roles mid season can put a dark cloud over your head, hurting your game mentally more than physically.
“For me, I think it was just a workload situation,” Storen said in a conference call. “Instead of getting those couple days off you’re kind of constantly treading water – which is absolutely the nature of being in the bullpen – but it is a tough transition when you go halfway through the year doing that and then have to make a switch.”
Like the Blue Jays, it’s time to turn the page for Storen as well. New team, new opportunities for a veteran in the ‘pen. But, what type of role will he play? This is a reliever that closed out 43 games in 2011. Will the Blue Jays find value in how the Nationals dealt with Papelbon and Storen at the expense of Roberto Osuna?
In 2015, like Osuna, Storen relied heavily on his four-seam fastball that touches 95 MPH. He mixes in a slider that sweeps across the zone, generating a ton of fly ball outs at 83 MPH, while adding a sinker and changeup to his repertoire. His versatile number of pitches is what makes him a great option.
Now, Osuna has been a starter his entire professional career up to 2015. Signing the 2009 first-rounder may add more flexibility to him and Aaron Sanchez. However, the 20-year-old offers significant help in high leverage situations. It could be Sanchez (5-4 in the rotation in 2015) getting more looks as a starter. Jesse Chavez will also factor in while Storen and Osuna create a healthy competition for the closing role. One thing is for sure, the back end of the bullpen will be locked down come the eighth and ninth inning.