CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds made their initial effort to upgrade their punching bag bullpen Tuesday by signing a veteran relief pitcher who used to dress up as former Reds third basema Chris Sabo for Halloween.
Free agent Drew Storen, a 29-year-old veteran righthander, signed a one-year contract, with eyes on being the team’s closer, a spot he occupied with the Washington Nationals in 2011 and collected 43 saves.
STOREN IS A SON of former Indianapolis radio talk show host Mark Patrick and played two years in high school at Brownsburg (Ind.) with Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart.
He grew up a Reds fan and put in numerous appearances at Riverfront Stadium as a fan.
“Being from the area and this being my hometown team this really works out and it is a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I see the Reds as an organization that is only going up and it’s a young group and hopefully I can help out some of the guys with my experience.”
AS FOR HIS CINCINNATI experience, he said, “I used to go down there (for games) quite a bit to see games. And to see the other side of things as a visitor was always something special, but to be wearing that Reds uniform is going to be kind of cool.
“For Halloween, I was Chris Sabo multiple times, so it is kind of nice to have my own name on a jersey.”
Even though he was not a failure, Storen lost his closer’s role in 2014 when the Washington Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon. So before the 2016 season he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and struggled as a set-up guy, going 1-and-3 with a 6.21 earned run average in 38 appearances.
At mid-season the Jays traded him to Seattle and he rediscovered his touch with a 3-and-0 record and a 3.41 earned run average and became a free agent after the season.
“I had a real strong season as a closer in ’14 but I’ve done a lot of roles,” he said. “Yes, I enjoy the ninth inning but it comes down to executing in whatever role you’re in. And that’s especially true in the Cincinnati ballpark because half of your mistakes go over that yellow line (for a home run) and that’s never a good thing.”
STOREN MAKES A CLEAR distinction that he prefers the closer’s role and said, “If you are in a bullpen and you don’t want to close you have no business being down there. That’s the way it should be.
“So many things change before Opening Day and throughout the season. I’m not getting paid to make those decisions. I’m getting paid to get people out so if I go do that the rest of it takes care of itself.”
Manager Bryan Price used both Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen as closers the second half of last season and Storen joins them in the mix as a possible closer, if Price choses to go that way. There are indications, though, that he might not name a closer and could use all three in interchangeable roles.
DIRECTOR OF BASEBALL Operations/General Manager said, “That will be determined in spring training as to how (manager) Bryan Price uses the bullpen.”
Williams said the team had a specific interest in Storen’s tools and added, “One of the primary targets for us in addressing our bullpen was getting a guy who had experience at the back end. But also we had trouble throwing strikes last year and Drew is a consistent performer with a low walk rate and a high strikeout rate. And he has shown he can throw in high leverage situations.
Williams added that the club is not finished, even though only 41 days remain before spring training.
“We will continue to try to make the club better,” he said when asked if the team might acquire additional relief pitchers. We have some time left this off season and we are going to stay busy.”