Storen ready to fill any role in Reds bullpen

Storen ready to fill any role in Reds bullpen

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There has been a debate brewing for a while over how closers should be used, and how managers should use their bullpens to get to the ninth inning. Some skippers go by the traditional standard -- hold the closer until the end.

But, is it better for the best reliever to get three outs with no runners on base for a save in the ninth, or to be used in the highest-leverage situation to escape a jam in perhaps the seventh?

"These are questions that people weren't asking a couple of years ago," Reds reliever Drew Storen said. "It shows you how much things are changing. But that's something that anybody in a bullpen understood. The save doesn't always come in the ninth, although it does in the stat line. If you're getting big outs in big situations, that's satisfying, because when you're helping a team win, it means a lot."

Some managers appear ready to rewrite the book. The Indians, Dodgers and Cubs all used closers and setup men to get the most important outs during the 2016 postseason -- even if it wasn't during their so-called typical innings of work. Reds manager Bryan Price dabbled with that as well near the end of the regular season, mixing the final innings among Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani and Michael Lorenzen.

Storen, a former closer, was signed to a one-year, $3 million contract over the winter to add a fourth back-of-the-bullpen reliever. Price says he doesn't plan to have one traditional closer, but four relievers that could be used in different scenarios -- and for multiple innings.

Price on versatile bullpen

"Every game is different, and you can't play every game like it's Game 7. I think it plays," Storen said. "You see bullpen management evolve. A lot of that comes down to personnel. You have guys that have the type of stuff down there that can do multiple innings, and you've got to utilize that. It's about finding the different pieces that fit. I feel like I'm a good fit to get my inning to bridge one of those guys, or work on the back end, whatever works.

"My thing is to just come in here and throw impactful, meaningful innings. It's more than throwing the ninth, it's throwing in high-leverage situations."

From August 2013 until August 2015, Storen was 41-for-46 in save opportunities for the Nationals with a 1.31 ERA, a .201 batting average against and three homers allowed. But he still lost his closer's job, switching to a setup role, when Washington traded for Jonathan Papelbon.

Storen wasn't as effective setting up -- or in lower-leverage situations -- and his numbers weren't very good, especially after he moved on to the Blue Jays before the 2016 season. But he rebounded for the final two months after a trade to the Mariners, and has the chance to rebuild his credentials in Cincinnati.

Storen reflects on 2016 season

Storen was prepared for whatever might come this season, but acknowledged he wasn't fully sure how the more innovative usage of late-inning relievers might work in the regular season.

"You can sit there and plan it on paper all you want. But no matter what, it's always a fluid situation down there," Storen said. "Fortunately, I've gotten to experience a bunch of different roles. It doesn't take me a lot to get ready, so I can be ready for anything."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.