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Storen happy to work under the radar

MLB.com @boomskie

SAN DIEGO -- Lost in the hubbub of the way Wednesday's Nationals game ended at Chase Field was the fact that closer Drew Storen came on in the ninth inning and struck out the D-backs in order to record his 10th save.

And that's just the way Storen likes it.

Full Game Coverage

SAN DIEGO -- Lost in the hubbub of the way Wednesday's Nationals game ended at Chase Field was the fact that closer Drew Storen came on in the ninth inning and struck out the D-backs in order to record his 10th save.

And that's just the way Storen likes it.

Full Game Coverage

"If I don't do any interviews, I know I'm having a good year," Storen said on Thursday as his team began what turned out to be a rare rain-delayed four-game series against the Padres at Petco Park. "I'm like a field-goal kicker or a goalie. If I'm not talked about, I figure that's probably a good thing."

In Wednesday's case, Bryce Harper was ejected for arguing a check swing on a third strike to end Washington's half of the seventh inning. Two innings later, Michael Taylor -- hitting in Harper's spot -- smacked his first career grand slam, wiping out Arizona's one-run lead and winning the game, 9-6.

Storen did his essential part striking out Jordan Pacheco, Nick Ahmed and Cliff Pennington to close it out just after Taylor gave the Nats the lead. Afterward, reporters sought out Taylor and Harper and a bit of starter Gio Gonzalez on the side. Storen was the invisible man, and he laughed about it.

Really, that is the lot of the closer. Save 45 games during the course of a season and that's just doing your job. But blow a couple and the media will be on you like a swarm.

"I'm good with that," Storen said. "If people don't really pay attention, if it's not exciting, that's fine. I want to be boring. I want to just be, 'Boom, boom, boom, and there we go.' Because any jams I get in, I'm causing it. I want to get three outs as quickly as I can."

Storen has been to the dark side before, of course, blowing key games in the 2012 and '15 National League Division Series against the Cardinals and Giants, respectively. And it isn't as if he's reticent about giving interviews.

His father, Mark Storen, using the stage name Mark Patrick, was a longtime sportscaster and had a Major League Baseball talk show for what was then XM Radio. So Drew, now 27, was steeped in media tradition.

When he's not working out, Storen is at his locker every day come success, failure or just to hang around and chat. The Nationals picked him 10th overall out of Stanford in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, just nine spots after Washington drafted Stephen Strasburg.

Failure is a huge part of baseball, and Storen learned how to deal with that as a kid. Padres legendary closer Trevor Hoffman used to good-naturedly complain that reporters almost never wanted to talk to him after most of his non-milestone saves as he set an NL record with 601. But when he blew 76, they always wanted to ask him why.

Storen took his cue from Hoffman and Brad Lidge, who played briefly with Storen on the Nats in 2012 before he retired. Lidge was famously known for holding court and answering all questions after blowing Game 5 of the 2005 NL Championship Series when Albert Pujols of the Cardinals hit a three-run ninth-inning homer at Minute Maid Park with the Astros on the brink of clinching.

Storen's father told him to emulate Lidge and so much more. Asked how much influence his father had on him, Storen said:

"A ton. The sooner you face the music, the sooner it goes away. I'd much rather stand there and tell you my side of things. It's nothing personal. You guys have a job to do. Dad said you should always be there. It's easy to sit there and do interviews that are good. You have to stand there and answer questions when things aren't going well. That's part of the business."

How refreshing. Storen is smart, affable and well versed. He was drafted as a junior and wants to eventually return to Stanford and finish his degree in product design. Storen loves to draw and wants to design baseball cleats someday. His mother, Pam, is a graphic designer, and he inherited his artistic side from her.

Because of his education, Storen said he believes he's playing on "house money." Because when his baseball career ultimately ends, he'll have his education to fall back on to take his life in another direction. But for now, his goal is to keep improving as a pitcher.

"Drew is smart. He's always been smart," Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty said with a hearty laugh. "But sometimes smart can kill you in baseball. Drew is a tinkerer. But all the tinkering in between has allowed him to come up with a really, really good changeup. So because of it, Drew has become a much better pitcher."

In that way Storen is also mimicking Hoffman, who built his career upon the spacing between throwing a fastball and a changeup. When done correctly, both pitches are thrown with the same motion and come out of the hand the same way, but the changeup is much slower. It's the art of deception, and that is by design.

The more Storen perfects it, the more success he'll enjoy. And the less attention he'll be paid. That, of course, is also by design.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Washington Nationals, Drew Storen