Storen proving to be a good fit in new role

Storen proving to be a good fit in new role

ANAHEIM -- When Drew Storen entered the game for the Mariners in the fifth inning of Wednesday's 4-3 victory over the Angels, it was the earliest he's ever pitched in a Major League contest in his seven-year career. But with the bases-loaded, one out and Mike Trout and Albert Pujols coming up, it certainly wasn't a low-pressure situation for the longtime Nationals closer.

Storen, who has 98 career saves and 402 MLB outings to his name, was a late-July addition to the Mariners when general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired him from the Blue Jays for Joaquin Benoit in a swap of struggling relievers.

Benoit has thrown eight scoreless innings for Toronto, while Storen has also responded well to his new role and environment. He struck out Trout and got Pujols on a long fly ball to center to preserve a 4-2 lead, then recorded two more outs in the sixth before being replaced.

After a rough debut when manager Scott Servais tried to extend him beyond an inning, Storen has allowed just four hits and one run over 8 1/3 innings in his last eight outings.

"Since Day 1 that I came here, it's been a blast," the 29-year-old said prior to Thursday's series finale with the Angels. "The team is playing really well and it's an exciting team to watch. To come in a big situation like that with your back up against the wall against the best in the game, that's what it's all about."

Storen racked up 43 saves in his second season in the Majors with the Nationals and almost always worked as a late-inning specialist in his time in the National League. He acknowledged it's an adjustment coming into a game with runners on, but not something he's uncomfortable doing.

"It's different. But unfortunately enough, when you close, I've pitched myself into those situations a few times," he said with a smile. "But when you're trying to hold the lead and prevent somebody else's runs, you really take pride in that because that's a pretty helpless situation when you're sitting in the dugout watching [after getting taken out]. You add that on top of it, I enjoy those situations. When I'm pushed into a corner, it's 'Hey, let's go.'"

Servais said Storen has added to the bullpen mix.

"He's been on a pretty good roll," Servais said. "His pitch has always been his slider, but the velo on his fastball has ticked up a little bit. I thought last night probably was the best stuff we've seen out of him. I do think it's a little different for him. He's always pitched at the back end of games, even when he first came to the big leagues. So for him readjusting and what we're asking him to do, I think he's handled it very well."

After struggling in Toronto, Storen is just glad to find a welcome landing spot and chance to contribute to a contender. And his arms are open to whatever comes his way, including multiple-inning situations.

"It's been a while since I've done that, but it's good because it's a challenge," he said. "I like that. I'm just trying to contribute any way. I know that's the standard answer I'm supposed to give, but in reality, that's all I'm trying to do. I'm really happy with the situation I'm in. Any time you get taken out of your comfort zone and are challenged a little bit, that's how you get better."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.