Blue Jays GM Atkins not anointing Storen as club's new closer
Reliever says he's not yet discussed his role with the club
General manager Ross Atkins isn't anointing newcomer Drew Storen as the Toronto Blue Jays' new closer just yet.
Toronto acquired right-handed reliever Storen from Washington on Friday night for outfielder Ben Revere and a player to be named later. Storen, 28, was 21-13 with 95 saves and a 3.02 earned-run average in six major league seasons, all with the Nationals.
Last season, 20-year-old Roberto Osuna had a team-high 20 saves for Toronto. On Saturday, Atkins was non-commital regarding who'll be filling that role in 2016.
"We feel so much better about having options now and that's really all I can say about that," Atkins said during a conference call. "We need to talk a lot about that.
"We've obviously thought about it already and will continue to work through with the players involved what's going to be best for the Blue Jays."
Struggled in 2015
Storen had converted 29 save chances and had a 1.73 ERA when Washington acquired Jonthan Papelbon from Philadelphia in late July. Storen struggled as a setup man following the deal, finishing the season with a 3.44 ERA and no saves.
His season ended in mid-September when he slammed his locker in frustration and broke his right thumb. But in 2014, the six-foot-one Storen posted a miniscule 1.12 ERA to lead all National League relievers.
However, Storen also blew saves in Game 5 of the 2012 Division Series against St. Louis, and Game 2 of the 2014 Division Series versus San Francisco.
Storen said he's not yet spoken to Toronto officials regarding his role with the club and added he's not losing sleep over it.
"Honestly, it's something for me that's not that important," he said. "I've dealt with it before and I know no matter what, any of those last nine outs are important.
"Whatever they want me to do, I'll just go out and do my job. I'm excited to join the team and join the guys and really work towards a championship."
Storen also had a simple explanation for his struggles last year after Papelbon's arrival.
"For me, I think it was just a workload situation," Storen said. "When you close, you know when you're going to throw and you're not getting up and sitting down as much.
"Going into the setup role we were playing tighter games and more must-win games so I was up quite a bit and I was throwing a lot. When you're throwing late in a game your room for error is very small."
Second stint with a Canadian club
This will actually mark Storen's second tenure with a Canadian major league club. Growing up in Indianapolis, Storen saw duty as a bat boy with the Montreal Expos when they played in Cincinnati and St. Louis as his father was a friend of Expos trainer Ron McLean.
"That was an incredible opportunity for me to really kind of get a feel of what big-league baseball was like," he said. "It kind of made me want to be a big leaguer more.
"That was something that was truly a special experience."
Toronto acquired Revere, 27, from Philadelphia on July 31. He hit .319 in 56 games with the Jays while registering 31 stolen bases on the season — his fourth season with 30 or more.
Atkins said having both Revere and Canadian outfielder Michael Saunders on Toronto's roster gave the Blue Jays the flexibility to make the deal for Storen. Saunders, a Victoria native, was hampered by a knee injury last year suffered after he stepped on a sprinkler during spring training.
Atkins said team doctors are confident Saunders will be 100 per cent healthy come spring training.
"It wasn't a matter of Revere versus Saunders for us," Atkins said. "We felt great about both of those players on our team so it came down to an opportunity to add to our pitching depth.
"There's a lot of flexibility it creates. It creates flexibility in the bullpen and further continues to give us options to be creative with our starting options."
Also on Toronto's roster is former starting outfielder Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont.
Atkins said he's far from finished making off-season inquiries that could result in further moves.
"For this one move that we've made that is worthy of getting on a conference call there's been hundreds of discussions of potential other ones," he said. "We still have ongoing discussions."