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Toronto Blue Jays’ Drew Storen pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in Dunedin, Fla., on March 4. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Toronto Blue Jays’ Drew Storen pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in Dunedin, Fla., on March 4. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Blue Jays reliever Drew Storen excited for ‘fresh start’ with Toronto Add to ...

Let’s get Drew Storen’s baseball spikes out of the way first.

They are pretty snazzy, red-soled and topped with the blue-and-white colours of his new team, the Toronto Blue Jays. The laces are red and on the back of each shoe is a stylized DS. Yes, the new Toronto relief pitcher even has his own logo!

Word around the Blue Jays spring training camp is that Roberto Osuna is already scrambling to come up with his own logo, not wanting to cede any perceived advantage as the two battle it out for closer’s supremacy here.

Storen attended Stanford University in California for two years before he turned pro, studying product design. And for fun, he started designing the colour schemes of his own baseball shoes – the ones currently on his feet are his own creation.

The brand is Mizuno, one of Storen’s sponsors, and the pitcher provided the company with the colour scheme.

“People who design cleats, I don’t think it’s something that they exactly plan on getting into,” Storen said. “So I feel I have a little it more insight.”

Storen is not sure if his brand will be flying off the shelves in Canadian sports stores this coming Major League Baseball season. But a solid first year for the Blue Jays coming out of the bullpen, in whatever capacity he eventually settles into, will certainly help sales.

The closer’s role is one that Toronto manager John Gibbons has declared open for competition here at spring training, where the defending American League East champs continue to flex plenty of muscle in the Grapefruit League circuit.

The Blue Jays rolled over the visiting Minnesota Twins 9-3 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on Tuesday to improve their spring record to 6-1-1.

Toronto outfielder Darrell Ceciliani belted a grand slam for Toronto as the Blue Jays scampered out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning.

Infielder David Adams added a solo shot in the fifth; Toronto hitters have now gone deep 11 times in eight spring games. Both Ceciliani and Adams will likely begin the regular season in the minor leagues next month.

Osuna settled in as closer with the Blue Jays last season and was terrific handling the game’s most pressure-packed situations, going 20 for 23 in save situations.

Not bad for a 20-year-old rookie.

But you can never have too much depth in a bullpen, and when the Washington Nationals dangled Storen on the trade market during the off-season, the Blue Jays bit and swapped speedy outfielder Ben Revere in exchange.

Storen broke in with the Nationals in 2010 and has had a checkered record in the closer’s role after notching 43 saves in 2011.

In 2013, he lost his closer’s job to Rafael Soriano, and lost it again last season after the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline to assume the ninth-inning role.

“I think for me, anytime I’ve dealt with adversity and kind of those not really ideal situations, it makes you better,” Storen said. “It’s kind of your choice. You either get better or you just sit around feeling sorry for yourself. So I’m excited to be here. It’s kind of a fresh start with a new team.”

Storen experienced plenty of adversity when he was the Nationals’ closer in the deciding game of the 2012 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With the Nats holding a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth inning, Storen came into the game and got two outs and had the Cardinals down to their final strike on five different occasions.

But he could not seal the deal: St. Louis would rally to score four runs and with 9-7, eliminating Washington from the playoffs.

That made for a long off-season for Storen as he stewed about the meltdown and he said it affected his play coming into 2013 when he lost his closer’s role to Soriano.

“It’s easy to have a short-term memory when you’ve got another game the next day,” Storen said, adding: “When I came back in 2013, I went in with the mindset ‘I’m not going to give up a hit all year.’ And that’s where I learned [to not] be a bar fighter but more of a boxer.

“This game’s not about trying harder. Trying harder is not always trying better, and you’ve just got to know that. I know you want to come back and punch somebody back harder. But if you throw a punch and you can’t take one back, you get knocked down. And that’s kind of what happened to me.”

Now he’s with a new team, in a new league that supports the designated hitter, and in a division that he delightfully describes as being like “aluminum bats and small ballparks.”

And he is once again trying to prove his worth as a closer against Osuna, a young gun who proved his worth there last season.

Both players, for public consumption at least, will tell you it matters not what inning they wind up working. But you know that’s not how they really feel.

“It’s one of those things: If you’re in the bullpen and you don’t want to close, you probably shouldn’t be there,” Storen said. “But, like I said, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s about being a part of a winning team. You can’t get too caught up in it.”

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