The Reds added a piece to manager Bryan Price’s late-inning arsenal Tuesday with the signing of Drew Storen.
A veteran reliever, Storen grew up a Reds fan in Brownsburg, Ind.
“For Halloween I was Chris Sabo multiple times as a kid, so it’s kind of nice to have my own name on a jersey,” he said after the signing was announced.
Along with joining what he called his hometown team, Storen will be reunited with high school teammate Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati’s No. 1 catcher last season.
“It’s something I’m obviously very excited about,” Storen said of reuniting with his old prep pal. “I enjoyed throwing to ‘Tuck a ton in high school and we’ve played catch in the offseason. He’s a catcher who knows what I like to do.”
Storen joins the Reds on a one-year, $3 million deal that includes incentives worth up to $1.5 million, according to reports.
The 29-year-old made over $8 million year when he split time between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners. That came after six strong seasons with the Washington Nationals, who selected him with the No. 10 pick in the first round of the 2009 draft.
The 2016 season was the worst of his career as Storen posted an ERA of 5.23 in 57 appearances. He was better in Seattle (3.44 ERA) after a July 26 trade.
“In Toronto I was throwing more inconsistently than I ever had before,” he said. “It was tough because I had been used quite a bit in Washington.”
Storen had a 21-13 record with 95 saves and a 3.02 ERA in 355 games for the Nats, and Reds general manager Dick Williams confirmed he was one of the team’s primary targets during an offseason in which fixing a historically bad bullpen is a priority.
“He is a guy we’ve had our eye on for a while,” said Williams, who added the club liked his control and experience pitching late in games.
“We hope to get him back in some of these higher leverage situations and we think that command will still be there and he will fit in nicely with the guys we’ve got.”
As for who will be chosen to close from among Storen, Michael Lorenzen, Tony Cingrani or Raisel Iglesias, Williams deferred to Price, who has said he is intrigued by the idea of using relievers in hybrid roles rather than the traditional set-up man/closer arrangement.
“I’m not paid to make those decisions,” Storen said. “I’m paid to get people out. If I do that, the rest takes care of itself.”
But he admitted he hopes to get the ball at the end of games.
“It’s one of those things: If you’re down in the bullpen and you don’t want to close, you have no business being down there.
“I enjoy the ninth innings, but when it comes down to it, it’s just executing. Especially in Cincinnati’s ballpark, that’s something you’ve got to do because half of your mistakes end up over that yellow (home run) line.”
Barnhart, who batted .257 with seven homers, 23 doubles and 51 RBIs in 115 games last season, credited Storen with helping him develop his craft behind the plate as he made his way through the Reds system.
The two have talked about the mental approach pitchers take to the mound.
“I was pumped obviously,” Barnhart said of hearing the signing had become official. “Any time you get a guy from the state of Indiana in my opinion is great, and then when you have a high school teammate on top of that — it’s pretty special.”