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Mike Rizzo took some time early Saturday afternoon to discuss sending struggling reliever Drew Storen to the minors. He said the decision to option him to Triple-A was made before Storen even took the mound during Friday’s doubleheader, even as he was battling the flu with a body temperature over 100 degrees. Rizzo now hopes Storen can work through both the confidence issues he may be dealing with, and also alter his mechanics to make his delivery quicker to the plate.
It was a tough decision for the Nationals to make, but Rizzo says it is best for the former first round pick.
“We felt that he was struggling, struggling with his mechanics, with his tempo with his delivery, with his arm slot, and we felt that we would do him better by letting him go down in a less stressful situation, work on his mechanics, get it fixed and get back up here and help us.”
Rizzo spoke with Storen about the move and said the 25-year-old was quite upset.
“He took it hard like a lot of guys that have established themselves in the big leagues take it,” Rizzo said. “I had a long conversation with him today and it was a very good conversation. I explained to him our rationale for it and that he’s a huge part of this organization and he’s going to be for a long time and just need to get him right.”
Rizzo acknowledged the fact bringing in free agent Rafael Soriano may have been the root of Storen’s downfall, but believes it should not have affected him as much as it potentially has.
“I don’t see the reason why it should’ve,” Rizzo said. “He’s a mentally-strong person with good stuff and a guy that we’re getting an established closer with a great track record and we felt there was another guy that added depth and power to the end of the bullpen.”
Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty thinks Storen can still be successful at the major league level, he just needs to regain his confidence and change up his mechanics.
“A lot of it is mental. Confidence-wise,” McCatty said. “It's not fair to Drew or to the team. We've got to go back and get him right where his mechanics are on a regular basis and get him to throw like he's capable of.”
McCatty said the Nats want Storen to do away with his straight leg motion when he pitches and go back to a higher leg kick. Changing his leg motion may bring the rest of his mechanics back into order.
“Right now he's flying off his arm slot, release point is not the same and everything gets effected. It's a snowball effect. He's going to go back to the original leg lift, doing the things that you need to do to hold runners on and also work on getting that arm slot back, getting that release point back, getting that confidence back.”
McCatty and Rizzo both said they don’t believe Storen will need much time to figure it out and find his way to the big leagues. They say it’s now up to Storen to make the proper adjustments and learn from his mistakes.
“It all depends on how you want to take it,” McCatty said. “We've all been sent down. You can go down with the attitude that you're mad and take your time doing it and be down there longer, or go down and say 'I'm going to get this conquered as quick as I can and get back to the big leagues.' What he does and how he handles his business is up to him.”
Rizzo on Clippard's comments: 'I don't agree'
After Friday night’s walkoff win over the Mets, the Nationals locker room quickly turned from celebratory to a much more serious tone. Closer Drew Storen had been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and one player in particular, Tyler Clippard, wasn’t happy about it.
Clippard spoke out on the move, saying he disagreed with the way the organization handled the situation with Storen and the free agent closer they brought in, Rafael Soriano.
On Saturday general manager Mike Rizzo addressed Clippard’s comments, saying he understand his concerns but wishes he would have gone about expressing them in a different way.
“I talked to Clip,” Rizzo said. “His opinion means a lot to me. I disagree with his assessment of the situation, but you fight to the death to let them speak their mind and say what they want. And that’s what makes these guys what they are on the mound. You’ve got to have a certain type of attitude and makeup to pitch in the latter-end of these games. They’re a competitive bunch, and the one thing I’ve never shied away from is when we have a discussion, we have it man-to-man, eye-to-eye, and I certainly can take his opinion. Like I said, I don’t agree with it, but I commend him for having a strong opinion on it.”
Manager Davey Johnson also spoke about Clippard’s comments. He believes Clippard stated what was already a known dynamic on the locker room.
“I understand all of it. Unfortunately, a lot of the things, that’s baseball,” he said. “All that change is sometimes tough for them.”