As part of my fundraising campaign to cover spring training, I offered readers who contributed at least $60 the opportunity to submit a question to a member of the Nationals. Manager Jim Riggleman and four players (Ryan Zimmerman, Nyjer Morgan, John Lannan and Drew Storen) were gracious enough to participate. Readers were randomly paired up with one of those five gentlemen, and I conducted the interviews over the last week.
Here is the fourth installment of the Reader Q&A, featuring rookie reliever Drew Storen. (Note: Some of the questions were submitted before Storen was demoted to minor-league camp. The interview took place after the demotion.) ...
Craig Stevens (Washington): To those of us who will never play, what's the big difference between pro camp and other camps?
Drew Storen: In college, it was a lot different, because you just play a lot of intrasquad [games]. There's not really a spring training in college. So this is kind of a new experience for me. College is just a lot of games. There's not necessarily this big preparation for the season. But spring training is good. You really practice the little things, and I think that's the biggest thing I've noticed: How much better I've gotten with doing those little things, like covering first and throwing to first base on a PFP [pitchers' fielding practice]. That's the big difference.
Graham Armstrong (Alexandria, Va.): Do you have any idea what your number will be -- or what you want it to be -- when you reach the big leagues?
Drew Storen: I have no idea what it's going to be. I really don't think too much about my numbers. I would love to bring back my college number, 26, at some point. That would be kind of cool. But I really don't care. As long as it's not in the 90s, it's fine with me. I always joke and say I need a skinnier number, because it makes me look bigger because there's more free jersey space. I've got 58 right now and it makes me look pretty skinny because you've got two pretty wide numbers. [Mark Zuckerman: So, No. 1 would be ideal?] That's what I wore in high school, actually. That's why I wore it.
Jim Kurtzke (Ashburn, Va.): Since the Nats have a bounty of young arms, why not adopt a dual-starter system in which one guy pitches five or six innings and the other pitches three or four? Would you be interested in pitching in that kind of system?
Drew Storen: Hmm, kind of a piggyback system. I would be fine with that. I've always said I really don't care if I start or if I relieve, anything. Just as long as I'm there. That would be fun. But we've got so many young guys. Might as well not reinvent the wheel and keep the middle relief and the closer.
Joe Knight (Herndon, Va.): What's the biggest difference between pitching at a couple of minor-league levels last year and pitching in big-league spring training? Do the hitters adjust better?
Drew Storen: Yeah, there's a lot less room for error. I really noticed that here in the last couple weeks, going from big-league camp to down here. Double-A hitters are still really good, but big-league hitters, you have to make the right pitch in every count. You don't get away with a lot, if anything. There's a lot of pitches you throw to a big-league hitter that you say: "That's a good pitch. This is going to strike him out here." Then they just don't even want anything to do with it. They just spit on it. They just have a better eye for what you think are good pitches, pitches that I was able to get guys out at Double-A last year but big-league hitters don't even flinch.
Mark Friend (Burke, Va.): As a former college athlete, what do you think of the Secretary of Education's proposal that all college teams should have to have at least a 40 percent graduation rate to compete in NCAA championships?
Drew Storen: I think education is important. Obviously, I'm coming from Stanford. I think it just depends on the sport. With baseball, the graduation rate is going to be a little different, because you have to finish at different times. I haven't really heard too much about that [proposal], but I think it is important to have people go to college to be student-athletes and not just athletes. That's something I really take pride in. I'm going to go back and finish my degree. Because I was given that opportunity to get an education and play sports. I think that's something good to keep in mind: The more student-athletes -- true student-athletes -- the better it's going to be.
Dan Furth (Sunderland, Md.): During the rain and cold early in spring training, who was the most entertaining team member?
Drew Storen: You know, it was all over the board. But I would say who first came to mind was Eddie Guardado. Eddie always had a fresh take and always was there making guys laugh and telling stories. Cool, old stories. He's one of the guys I looked up to when I was young. The other thing Eddie was great at was, he made us realize how great and how lucky we were. Anytime somebody said something like: "I can't believe we're out here right now, the weather's terrible!" He was like: "What, would you rather be sitting at a desk?" You kind of realize, hey, you're getting paid to play baseball. That's why I loved having Eddie around, and I wish the best for him.