WASHINGTON — With the signing of Jonathan Papelbon, the Nationals found themselves in familiar territory: Telling Drew Storen he was being replaced as closer – again.
Manager Matt Williams, on his weekly radio appearance on 106.7 The Fan, says these conversations are never easy or pleasant.
“But at the end of the day, Drew is a pro and he wants to win, as we all do, and he’ll do anything that he’s asked to do to help win games,” he said. “Drew is the type of guy that will just do what he does, regardless of the inning that he pitches, and go out there and get three outs and turn it over to the next guy if he has to.”
Storen didn’t spend much time addressing the trade, telling reporters, “All I’m gonna say is obviously I’m aware of the move. Talked to Mike about it, talked to my agent. We’ve had some ongoing discussions. Until those have progressed, I’m just gonna leave it at that and as the situation goes, I’ll keep you guys posted.”
Per the term’s of Papelbon’s contract, a no-trade clause allowed him to block any trade which would prevent him from being a closer. The Nationals, in dealing with the Phillies, relinquished this concession, setting themselves up to have a tough conversation with Storen for the second time in three seasons.
“The reason that he has the ability to say that is because he’s really good and he’s got a track record to back it up,” Williams said of Papelbon. “And he’s earned it. He’s earned that right. The stuff with Troy Tulowitzki and trading him to Toronto, and their GM saying next year he’s going to be a ’10 and 5′ guy, that means that he’s got some authority to say where he goes and when he goes. Those guys have earned it.”
“And I don’t read anything into that other than, say, [Papelbon] wants to be the guy that comes in in the ninth inning, and he’s done it and he’s done it well, and that’s what he wants to do,” the manager added. “It’s then up to the team that’s going to trade for him potentially to understand that, and say, ‘Does that fit what we’re trying to do here?’ And we’re glad to have him, we’re glad to have him. It makes us a better team.”
Papelbon being the Nats’ designated closer does not preclude Williams from going with a different pitcher in the ninth, he said, reiterating what Mike Rizzo had told reporters the day before of Storen and Papelbon’s sometimes shared duties.
“Drew will pitch the ninth inning at times when Papelbon’s not available and be our set-up guy in the eighth inning as we constructed today,” Rizzo said. “Pap hasn’t pitched too many three days-in-a-row stints, so we’re going to be careful with him.”
Burke & Herbert Bank “Fan Question of the Week”
Q: As a player, Matt, do you remember ever facing as tough a stretch of starting pitching as your team just did the past ten days? – Bruce in Bowie
A: “Yeah, I’m sure,” Williams said. “There are many, many good pitchers out there. And the fact of the matter is, if we get to where we want to get to, that’s the type of pitching we’re going to face every time we play. If you want to be a championship-caliber club then that’s the type of pitching you’re going to have to come across. And to win those games, it’s important to do things correctly.
“You have to limit the mistakes, for sure; you have to create those opportunities, like we did last night, as an example; and get that base hit with those guys out there. That will win you games and win you championships. Yeah, it’s not easy. This is the big leagues. It’s the highest level.”