GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Drew Storen is comfortable with his catcher, and that’s important for a former closer who is trying to earn the role with the Cincinnati Reds.
Storen attended high school in Indiana with Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, who lobbied for him to join Cincinnati in the offseason. Storen agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal and will be in competition for the closer spot.
After a tough season last year, the 29-year-old reliever hopes that having some familiarity will help him get back into a good frame of mind. The right-hander went 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA in 57 appearances last season for Toronto and Seattle, which primarily used him in roles other than his accustomed spot as a closer.
“It was a big thing for me last year,” Storen said. “You take for granted that comfort zone of knowing everybody. You have to start over. It’s different.”
The Reds’ most glaring need in the offseason was to find a closer. They had a historically bad bullpen last season, converting only 28 saves in 53 chances. Reds relievers gave up a major league record 103 homers and led the NL in walks.
Storen grew up as a Reds fan and talked to Barnhart when he was considering signing with them.
“It was like buying a house,” Storen said. “You check off a lot of boxes. By talking to Tucker, I knew what I was getting into.”
Manager Bryan Price isn’t inclined to name a closer. There are several candidates — Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Tony Cingrani as well as Storen — who can pitch more than one inning rather than only the ninth.
“With multiple-inning guys like them, you don’t need to designate a closer,” Price said. “I would really like to look at the end of the year and see Storen, Iglesias, Cingrani and Lorenzen in particular to have some saves.”
Storen would like to be the closer, but he’s fine with Price’s plan to share the role at the outset.
His best seasons were with the Nationals. He went 2-1 with a 1.12 ERA and 11 saves in 2014, and followed it with 2-2, a 3.44 ERA and 29 saves in 2015.
Storen’s new team is trying to dig out from two years of a rebuild. The bullpen is a work in progress and will be one of the main areas in the spotlight as the Reds try to escape the bottom of the NL Central this season.
“You’ve seen the evolution of the bullpen,” Storen said. “You’ve seen how important they view those last three innings. We have a unique situation with (relievers) who can go multiple innings. It’s going to be a fluid situation.
“Whatever gets me the ball in a big spot late in the game is fine with me.”