Former first-round pick Drew Storen was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday, moving the talented right-hander one step closer to the Nats' bullpen.
Storen, the 10th overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, converted all four save opportunities he got for Double-A Harrisburg this season, posting an 0.96 ERA in seven appearances. He's expected to join the Chiefs' bullpen on Friday.
Nationals fans have been following the Senators closely this April as both Storen and fellow '09 first-rounder Stephen Strasburg work their way through the Washington system. Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick last June, is slated to make another start for Harrisburg on Sunday. He was relieved by Storen in his last outing, when he threw five hitless innings on April 27 at Reading.
Storen, 22, struck out 11 and walked just one batter in 9 1/3 innings with the Senators. He posted a .161 (5-for-31) batting average against and .059 (1-for-17) against right-handed batters.
The promotion is noteworthy in that Storen, 2-1 with 15 saves and a 1.75 ERA in 35 appearances during his two seasons as a professional, may have a chance to be the Nationals' setup man or closer later this season -- Matt Capps, the Nats' current closer, has gone 10-for-10 in save opportunities thus far. Nationals senior vice president and general manager Mike Rizzo and director of player development Doug Harris made the joint announcement Thursday.
"We are working towards that," Harris said about Storen joining the Nationals at some point this year. "There isn't a specific date or timeline in mind. We have goals we want to accomplish. We are certainly preparing him for the Major Leagues."
Storen, a 6-foot-2 righty out of Stanford University, features a mid-90s fastball and a hard breaking ball. Strasburg, whose fastball has reached triple digits, is widely speculated to be headed for the Nationals after missing the cut out of Spring Training.
Unlike Strasburg, however, Storen wasted no time in signing with the organization last June, inking a contract the day after he was selected. Strasburg waited about two months for a bigger deal with agent Scott Boras.
"Signing early was crucial," Storen said. "I wanted to get going and start playing. The experience that I had last year helped me out this year. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I could move quickly this year."
Indeed, Storen got a taste of the Minor League life last summer, spending time with Class A Hagerstown, Class A Advanced Potomac and Harrisburg. He finished the season 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 11 saves in 28 combined outings at three levels.
That success has continued into 2010. Overall, he's tallied 60 strikeouts against just nine walks in 46 1/3 innings, good for a 6.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 11.7 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.
Storen, a closer in college as well, said he's not concerned about his potential role in the big leagues.
"It will be no different, really. It's just, 'What inning am I going in?' I will still take the same approach," Storen said. "I don't want to give up a run, whether I'm pitching in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning.
"The bullpen has done such a great job this year, it would be awesome for me to throw and help them out," he added. "They already have guys that could do that already. I'm willing to do whatever role they throw me in, as long as I'm helping the team win."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.