Last night's ninth inning -- in which Jim Riggleman pulled Drew Storen with two outs in the ninth and the Nationals leading by four runs -- produced plenty of armchair managing from media members and fans alike. Thanks to all of you who commented in the earlier thread; there were some fantastic points made on both sides of the argument.
I don't want to harp too much on the subject, but I do want to present some thoughts that were provided today from both Riggleman and Storen. The key point they seemed to make -- especially Storen -- was that this wasn't nearly as big a deal as everyone has tried to make it. Yes, Storen was upset to get yanked, but not at Riggleman, at himself for not getting the job done. He said he completely understood his manager's thinking.
Storen also wanted to make it clear that he is worried neither about losing confidence in himself nor about Riggleman losing confidence in him. As both men have pointed out, Storen isn't this team's closer ... yet. He still has to earn that title.
Here are the full quotes from both guys. Riggleman's comments are from his pre-game press conference will all media. Storen's comments are from a one-on-one interview I conducted with him after batting practice (and after Riggleman spoke)...
Q: With Storen last night, obviously your first priority is to win the game. When it comes to him, do you worry about shaking his confidence when you take him out? Or do you have to set that aside, deal with it later and just try to do what you can to win the game?
A: You're concerned about that, yeah. But that's secondary to trying to win the ballgame. You hear things like that a lot of times. It's like pinch-hitting for a guy, you might shake his confidence. Or taking a pitcher out of a game, you might shake his confidence. For me, those are things that are said that you can't quantify them. If a guy's confidence gets shaken that easy, then he might not be the right guy. I have no doubt that Drew is going to look at that as a situation where, "I'm not the closer yet. I aspire to be that. But this is results-oriented, and I'm going through the process of becoming a closer here some day." We really think that he will, but that doesn't have to be in the remainder of '10. It doesn't have to be in the year '11. You know, most of the guys who have done that job ... two guys that come to mind are the guys in New York: [John] Wetteland and Mariano [Rivera]. Wetteland was setting up for somebody, then took it over. And Mariano set up for Wetteland and then he took it over. A lot of times, there's a process of a couple years where you actually set up before you totally take over that role. So the days that you're asked to pitch in the ninth, you're just trying to get outs. You're not "The Closer." We're certainly not going to rush the process. When there's a little blip on the screen of a struggle like he had in Philadelphia or ... not that he was struggling last night. But in non-save situation, I didn't really want him to go out there and end up throwing 30-35 pitches, which wouldn't have been called for. I felt we'll go get this last out with Burnett."
Q: I'm sure in that situation, you think you should stay in the game, but do you understand Jim's reason for doing it?
A: Oh, totally. It's all about winning. It's not about what I want. And it's not that I disagree with it. I'm just competitive enough that I want to get that last out. It has nothing to do with confidence in myself or anything like that. I have the confidence to get that out. But in the end, it's about winning. We got the win. I don't see this as some big story that everybody's trying to make it into. It's nothing. We just had to win the game. I walked a guy, and you can't have that happen. I'm not worried about his confidence in me. I've still got something to prove, that's how I look at it.
Q: How do you think you were throwing?
A: I thought I was throwing alright. I made one bad pitch, obviously, and that's going to happen. I was trying to work my fastball in. I just left it up. And Jason [Castro] had a good at-bat against me, I just left a pitch inside. So I didn't look at [getting replaced] as that. It was a match-up thing. It comes down to whether you're going to win or not.