The Nationals might not admit it -- or, at the very least, they might be shying away from applying the title -- but Drew Storen is their closer. And six weeks into his second major league season, he's looking like a dominant one.
The 23-year-old has pitched 21 consecutive scoreless innings, saved nine straight games and has a 0.38 ERA for the season after his shutout inning in a 4-2 win over the Pirates on Monday. The team wanted Storen, selected with the 10th pick in the 2009 draft, to grow into the closer's role. Instead, he has surged into it, bypassing the apprenticeship the Nationals wanted for him with performances they had to have in the ninth.
He went through a rough spring as the Nationals forced him to throw his fastball more often, attempting to wean him off his dependence on his slider. That practice has paid off early this season; Storen has struck out 19 batters in 23 2/3 innings and has walked just five hitters (two intentional).
And Storen, who has begun his career in the shadow of Stephen Strasburg, has a chance to get to an All-Star Game while the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft is on the disabled list, recovering from Tommy John surgery.
There still are six weeks left before All-Star teams are announced, but at the moment Storen looks like a prime candidate. And whether the Nationals want to officially call him their closer or not, he's the one they look to in the ninth.
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