Mariano Rivera to Drew Storen: “You don’t need my cutter”

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Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post put together an in-depth look at Drew Storen’s late-season turnaround. It’s a great read, chock full of charts and stats, but perhaps the most interesting part came in the opening paragraph.

Drew Storen had the privilege of meeting Mariano Rivera. Knowing such an opportunity is fleeting, Storen asked Rivera if he could impart wisdom on throwing the cut fastball, the pitch that Rivera lived on for 17 years as the game’s best closer. Rivera sagely replied, “You don’t need my cutter.”

More, via Kilgore:

“Right away, he goes, ‘You don’t need it,’ ” Storen said over the phone Thursday morning, as he drove to a workout in his hometown Indianapolis. “ ‘You got 43 saves at the big league level. You don’t need my cutter.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, okay.’ He goes, ‘You got everything you need. If you make the most of what makes you successful, then you’ll be successful.’ ”

Storen posted a 5.95 ERA through the end of July, prompting a two-week demotion to Triple-A Syracuse. Kilgore writes that, while in Syracuse, Storen changed his delivery to include a quick leg kick, and he changed his arm slot. While his results in Triple-A were not any better, the Nationals called him back up in mid-August. From August 16 through the end of the season, Storen posted a 1.40 ERA. The most staggering change was that he did not allow a home run in 19.1 innings compared to allowing seven in 42.1 innings prior to his demotion.

It is a small sample size with which to work, but the evidence seems to point to Storen having changed for the better. Still, it’d be nice to get the recipe to Rivera’s cutter. It couldn’t hurt.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.