New Blue Jays reliever Drew Storen spoke with the media earlier this afternoon, explaining his struggles that followed the arrival of Jonathan Papelbon
Drew Storen and GM Ross Atkins spoke with reporters earlier today, addressing Friday’s trade and the architecture of Toronto’s bullpen going forward. Atkins was quick to take an open approach to the situation and not lay out any hard roles, instead suggesting that the Blue Jays will continue to work all available avenues to maximize their pitching talent.
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Pressers and conference calls aren’t typically a hotbed for new information anymore, but we did get one valuable takeaway from today when Storen discussed his late-season struggles in 2015. These coincided with the arrival of former Phillies
closer Jonathan Papelbon, and given some of Storen’s past playoff struggles, the timing of his downturn brought his mental game back into question.
At the time of the Papelbon deal on July 28th, Storen was cruising along as one of baseball’s hottest relievers (replacing him in the closer’s role was ridiculous, if you haven’t gathered that already). Over 38 games he’d earned a 1.74 ERA and cashed in on 29 of his 31 save opportunities, striking out 44 batters over 36.1 innings pitched. Once Papelbon landed, it was like those four months had never happened.
Over his final 18.2 innings, Storen would cough up a 6.75 ERA and blow three saves, but today he offered up a more logical cause for the struggles.
The ‘dry-hump’ is baseball speak for when a manager gets a reliever up to warm, but does not get them in to the game. This becomes troublesome if it happens multiple times in a short burst or continually over a longer stretch, especially with a high-velocity arm that needs to ramp up to maximum output.
So, why is this important? John Gibbons hates it, that’s why.
Now, no manager does this to a back-end reliever intentionally, but the old-school and player-focused Gibbons works to consciously avoid this more than most skippers in the game, even bringing it up in interviews the rare time that he would do this to one of his own players. Say what you will about Gibbons, but if there is a player that benefits from being treated with consistency, he’s a better manager than most.
Storen did make a point of saying he’s content in any role asked of him, but that’s clearly a question that has a ‘right’ answer. Going into his free agent year, saves count for Storen. Thankfully, Toronto’s only problem here is having two great options.