Drew Storen becomes a big leaguer
On Sunday afternoon, Drew Storen had no idea what awaited when he walked off the field in Pawtucket, R.I, and Greg Booker, his pitching coach at Class AAA Syracuse, stopped him in the tunnel to the visitors' clubhouse. Booker told Storen his life as a minor leaguer had ended. Storen froze, overwhelmed. Of all the things racing through his head, one stood out. He thought, "What am I going to tell my dad?"
On Monday afternoon, standing in front his own major league locker for the first time, Storen still had a lot going through his head. He had woken up at 8 a.m. and couldn't fall back asleep. He arrived at Busch Stadium at 2:15 p.m. He sat and stared inside his locker, at his No. 58 Washington Nationals jersey.
Storen's first day in the major leagues came now because of his talent -- he had a 1.08 ERA in 16 2/3 innings in the minors this year -- and because of the decision he made last year to sign the day after the draft. Storen forewent harsh negotiations because he wanted to play in the majors as soon as he could.
His time came Monday night, when he pitched two-thirds of a scoreless inning in the Nationals' 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out one and hitting a batter.
"He earned it," General Manager Mike Rizzo said of Storen's call-up. "He's worked for it and he's earned it. We reward guys who deserve to be in the big leagues. He's done everything we've asked him to do and excelled and performed marvelous at every level he's been in. What more can we ask him to do in the minor leagues that he can't do in the major leagues?"
Storen's first night in the Nationals' bullpen came after a hectic 24 hours. He had long dreamed of the moment, becoming a big league pitcher, but he had never prepared for all the moments in between. He had only been in Class AAA for two weeks, and he had only started to feel settled in. When he got the call-up, "It was like, 'What's going on?' " Storen said.
In Pawtucket, he hopped in the shower and stared blankly for five minutes. When he got out, Matt Chico was in the clubhouse.
"It's all right, man," Chico said. "Just relax."
"I know," Storen replied. "I got so many different things going through my head right now."
He thought about the things he had to. "Luckily, they had a list of things I needed to do," Storen said. "Otherwise, I don't know if I would have made it to the airport."
He arrived at the Providence airport 30 minutes after he walked off the field and boarded a plane to St. Louis.
"All my stuff is in my car in the parking lot at the stadium" in Syracuse, Storen said. "I haven't figured out how that's going to happen. Luckily, I did a decent job packing for this road trip. I have everything I need. I had to go get some collared shirts today at the mall. It's all right."
His father, Mark, drove five hours from Indianapolis to watch him pitch. A sports-talk radio host, Mark did his show from the road. The Nationals have said they hoped to break Storen into the majors in a low-pressure situation. At each new level, Storen said, he has always pitched early. He would be okay with that.
"In a perfect world, the score would be a little wider-spread when he could get his first game under his belt and get the butterflies out," Manager Jim Riggleman said before Monday's game. "But I think he's got a confident nature about him, regardless of the situation. I think it may be a pitch or two where there's a lot of things going on in his head, but after that I think he'll settle down and pitch effectively. But in a perfect world, there'd be a little softer landing."
While the whirlwind of becoming a major leaguer stunned Storen, he also understands why the Nationals chose him. Nearly 40 games into the season, they want to contend, and Storen wants to help.
"I'm excited to be here," Storen said. "I'm very thankful for the opportunity. But I'm here to do a job. I'm here to help them win. That's really my main goal. I'm happy to be here, but my main thing is to help them win and be an asset to the bullpen. That's what I said all along. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't just getting a token call-up, just a hand-out. I want to be the guy. I want to be a guy that helps out."
Promoting Storen now may cost the Nationals financially, because Storen will almost certainly be eligible for "Super 2" status, thereby shortening the time until he becomes eligible for arbitration.
"Does it come into play? Yes," Rizzo said. "We think about it. But we're here to win games, and we feel this move gave us the best chance to win games. If Drew comes up today and never goes back to the minor leagues and becomes a Super 2, God bless him. He's done everything we want him to."
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