MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Storen steps in seamlessly to fill closer's role

Nats right-hander dazzles after returning to familiar job

Storen steps in seamlessly to fill closer's role

WASHINGTON -- With Rafael Soriano taking time off to fix his mechanics, Nationals right-hander Drew Storen took over the role of closer and has dominated, pitching three shutout innings, saving three games and striking out six batters.

Storen was not expected to be available in Wednesday's series finale against the Braves, for he has pitched in four out of the last five games.

"It has been a lot of fun," Storen said about his new role. "I've been happy with the way I've thrown the ball. I'm commanding my offspeed pitches. I'm keeping guys off balance. Throwing offspeed for strikes has been really huge."

Closing is nothing new to Storen. He saved 43 games in 2011 for Washington. But Storen says he is a better pitcher now than he was back then. It helps that Storen has an arsenal of pitches: fastball, sinker, changeup and slider.

"You looked at all the experience that I've had; there were a lot of ups and downs," Storen said. "Adding a changeup helped, my fastball command is a lot better. I just feel like, stuff-wise, I might not be throwing as hard, but I feel I can pitch a lot better."

There were more ups than downs after Storen returned from the Minor Leagues in 2013. From Aug. 18 of last year to Wednesday, Storen has a 1.36 ERA, 29 holds and eight saves in 76 games. Going back to the Minors was a blessing in disguise. After getting hit hard in the first half of '13, Storen went to Triple-A Syracuse to fix his mechanics.

"The results speak for themselves," Storen said. "I needed to work on things and get back to where I wanted to be. In the end, it really worked out. It's not ideal, but you can't argue with the results."

Manager Matt Williams declined to name Storen his closer, insisting that the Nats' closer will be based on matchups from game to game. But if Storen keeps it up, he could be Washington's full-time closer by the time the postseason starts.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.