The Washington Nationals optioned reliever Drew Storen to Triple-A Syracuse late Friday night. That, in itself, isn’t all that surprising and isn’t enough to make headlines. What fellow reliever Tyler Clippard said in reaction to the news, however, now that’s something to talk about.
“It’s tough. I mean, he’s done a lot this year as far as, he’s worked hard, tried to get out of this funk. It kind of snowballed on him there to get to this point. It’s just unfortunate.
“I think there’s a lot of things that led to this that could’ve been prevented. You know, you basically send a guy a message this offseason for having one bad game that he’s not the guy for the job. He’s only human. I mean, it’s going to get to anybody.
That “one bad game” that Clippard referred to was Game Fave of the NLDS last season, when Storen coughed up four runs to the Cardinals in the ninth inning to blow a two-run lead and end the Nats’ season. A couple months later, the Nats signed Rafael Soriano to take over as the team’s closer; a move Clippard thinks hurt Storen’s confidence.
“I just think it’s been handled very poorly. And it could’ve gone either way. I know the same message was sent to me. And I’ve been through adversity over my career, you know? So I know how to handle it. You know, this is a tough day. He’s going to be part of this organization for a long time, I hope because he’s good. And we need him. But if he goes somewhere else, he’s going to be great for them.
Storen has struggled mightily this year, primarily working as a seventh-inning set-up man. In the previous two years combined, he was fantastic, tossing a total of 105.2 innings and pitching to a 2.62 ERA with 47 saves for the Nats. This season, Storen has been knocked around quite a bit, posting a 5.95 ERA in just 42.1 innings pitched.
Clippard and Storen have been teammates for the past four seasons and prior to this year, traded the closer and set-up duties between them a couple of times. Obviously, the two are close friends and while it’s understandable for Clippard to feel his friend was betrayed, voicing that displeasure in the media isn’t something that’s going to help and it’s just the latest situation this season that has shown the Nats have had some difficulty dealing with the success they had last year and the increased expectations of the 2013 campaign.
This is a extremely talented team and one that was favored to win the NL East again. They’ve hovered around .500 for most of the year, they’ve stayed in the race thanks to Atlanta stubbing their after a hot start, there is time yet for Washington to make a run. But for all the talent and all the expectation, there always seems to be something that holds the club back. Clippard’s comments are just the latest example of a riff in the clubhouse.