Familiar surroundings are important to Drew Storen.
Storen found a home in Washington with the Washington Nationals in 2010, changing roles while helping his team to the playoffs in 2012 and 2014. He was the Nationals first pick in the 2009 draft and made his Major League debut less than a full year after the draft, making brief stops at every minor league level along the way.
The 29-year old right-hander became a huge presence on the mound for the Nationals in the late innings. He had little time to settle in anywhere in the minor leagues but once he advanced to the big club, he flourished. Storen was 4-4 with a 3.58 ERA in 54 games,earning five saves his rookie year. The next season, Storen notched 43 saves in 73 games with a 6-3 record and a 2.75 ERA. He missed 89 games after having bone spurs removed from his elbow in 2012 but recovered to pitch 37 games, building a 3-1 record with a 2.37 ERA and four saves for a team that surprised by winning the NL East.
“No one expected us to do anything in DC and things just clicked,” said Storen, who believes the same thing could happen in Cincinnati. “We have some hungry guys here.”
Storen led National League relievers with a 1.12 ERA in 65 appearances in 2014. In his last three years in Washington, he collected 43 saves in 191 appearances.
The business of baseball took Storen out of his comfort zone. The Nationals traded him to Toronto for center fielder Ben Revere in January, 2016. Storen suffered through 38 games with the playoff-bound Blue Jays with a dismal 1-3 record with a 6.21 ERA and three saves. Toronto sent him to Seattle near the trade deadline for Joaquin Benoit.
“It was a big thing for me last year,” Storen said. “You take for granted that comfort zone of knowing everybody. You have to start over its different.”
The Reds signed Storen to a one-year deal on Jan. 3 and Storen used his familiarity with Tucker Barnhart, who was his catcher at Brownsville High School near Indianapolis. Storen went on the Reds’ winter caravan at the end of the month.
“It is like buying a house.You have to check off a lot of boxes,” Storen said. “I talked to Tucker Barnhart a lot. I knew what I was getting into. I knew some of the guys coming in and going on the caravan helped. I’ve been learning everybody’s name. It’s been good so far.”
Reds’ manager Bryan Price has Storen, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Tony Cingrani in mind for the late innings.
“At this point I want to say no (to naming a closer),” Price said. “Should there be a recipe that plays out, typically you want a one inning or one plus inning guy because you might have three or four games in a row. With multiple inning guys like them, you don’t need to designate a closer. I would really like to look at the end of the year and see Storen, Iglesias, Cingrani and Lorenzen in particular to have some saves. It is a lot for four guys to be comfortable pitching in the last inning.”
Storen and Cingrani have done it. Iglesias had some save opportunities last season.
“Lorenzen didn’t have a lot of chances but I think he’s built for that,” Price said.
Storen is looking forward to the opportunity and is fine with an undefined role.
“We have a young bullpen,” Storen said. “Hopefully, I can help those guys out. … You’ve seen the evolution of the bullpen. You’ve seen the how important they view all those last three innings. We have a unique situation with Iglesias and Lorenzen, who can go multiple innings. It’s going to be a fluid situation. Whatever gets me the ball in a big spot late in the game, is fine with me.”