WASHINGTON -- Last season was a trying one for right-handed reliever Drew Storen, but after a late return to form, he is feeling optimistic about rebounding in 2014.
Storen, 26, was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse late last July, carrying a 5.95 ERA two years after saving 43 games for Washington. He tweaked his mechanics and returned in mid-August as a new pitcher, posting a 1.40 ERA and holding opponents to a .200 average over his final 21 appearances.
"I just got back to throwing the way I used to throw, and that's being dynamic and athletic and attacking guys and utilizing my defense," Storen said on Saturday during NatsFest. "I think that was my main mind-set, not trying to do too much. Going down there, it helped me figure out who I was a little bit. I don't need to go out there and try to throw the perfect pitch every time. I can go out and attack guys."
After a few years using a slidestep that involved a stiff front leg, Storen reverted to his former delivery, which involved a more traditional leg kick. Pitching coach Steve McCatty wanted him to better use his athleticism and be quicker to the plate after basestealers went 4-for-4 against him to start the 2013 season, making them 13-for-13 over a three-year stretch.
In 19 1/3 innings after returning from the Minors, one steal attempt was made against Storen, and it was unsuccessful. He also posted a 15-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowed no home runs, compared with the seven he gave up before his demotion.
"I mean, it wasn't ideal, obviously," Storen said of his stint in Syracuse. "But you can't argue with the results when I came back. So I'm happy with where I'm at right now, and I think that's kind of the main thing."
This offseason, Storen weathered some trade rumors, took less time off than in past winters and focused on eating healthy. As for his mechanics, he isn't doing anything more complicated than sticking with what worked late last season.
"Not a whole lot of tweaking," Storen said. "It's just going back to what I did, keeping it simple and just trusting it, having fun with it."
Storen's bullpen colleague and good friend Tyler Clippard is predicting a "great year" ahead for the former first-round Draft pick now that 2013 is firmly in the rearview mirror.
"I think everyone in their career needs to hit a few road bumps to kind of take that next step, and we've all seen Drew progress, but he's progressed in the big leagues," Clippard said. "A lot of people need to do all that stuff in the Minor Leagues. He got a taste of it, I think it was a couple of weeks, in Triple-A, but when he came back, he had his nose to the grind, and I think he's carried that over into the offseason and he'll carry it into this season."