CHICAGO — Drew Storen sees a certain symmetry and a hopeful omen that he landed with the Mariners in his quest to recapture the form that once made him one of the game’s top closers.
"I grew up as a big Mariners fan," he revealed. "So it’s kind of cool from the fan’s standpoint in me. The team I grew up following. It’s great."
How did a kid growing up in Indiana become a Mariners’ fan?
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"Griffey," he said. "I was all in on Griffey. I had every teal jersey there was. I had the Mariners T-shirt and pillowcase during the playoffs and stuff. I was all in."
The Mariners acquired Storen, 28, in a late Tuesday trade from Toronto for veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit. It amounts to a change-of-scenery, short-term rental for both clubs.
Storen and Benoit are each struggling through disappointing seasons that stand in sharp contrast to their career resumes. Each will be a free agent in the coming off-season. And each has something to prove over the next two months.
The Blue Jays designated Storen for assignment last Sunday in a move that, ironically, came one day after he allowed three runs in one inning to the Mariners at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Being DFA’d puts a player in limbo. His former club has 10 days to reach a resolution on his status, but he is no longer permitted to be around the ballpark. It was a stinging career low for Storen, who had 29 saves last season at Washington.
"It’s been a weird couple of days," he admitted. "Just kind of hang out, go home, stay there in no-man’s land and wonder what’s going to happen. I got the call (Tuesday), and I was really excited that I was coming here. It was perfect."
It didn’t start perfectly.
Storen joined the Mariners in time to pitch in Wednesday’s 10-1 blowout loss in Pittsburgh. He began with a one-two-three inning, but then manager Scott Servais sent him back out again.
It was only the second time since April 2013 that Storen was asked to go more than one inning — and it didn’t go well. Three of the first four batters reached on singles. Nothing hard. One was a bunt. Another a well-placed grounder.
But the bases were loaded. Storen then walked in a run before Servais went to the bullpen again for Nathan Karns. Servais later admitted, "I probably pushed the envelope a little too far."
When Jung Ho Kang rocked Karns’ first pitch for a three-run double, those runs went on Storen’s line, which closed out at four runs in 1 1/3 innings. That’s sort of how this season has gone.
Storen’s ERA is now a grim 7.01. Contrast that with his 3.02 mark over the previous six seasons at Washington before he went to the Toronto in a January trade for outfielder Ben Revere.
"I also had a tough year in ’13 in D.C. (with a 4.52 ERA in 68 games)," Storen said, "but I think a lot of it was I got off to a rough start (in Toronto). You know how stats are (for relievers).
"And it was an adjustment, adjusting to a new league. It’s a completely different ballgame for me. And I was adjusting to a new role. I was coming from a role where I was either setting up or closing.
"And then (in Toronto) I didn’t know who was getting the call. That was a big change. I got on a good run when I was throwing consistently. Then my work innings kind of ran out, and I sat for a little bit.
"That’s why I’m excited to be here because I get to throw consistently and show people what I can really do. My line right now doesn’t reflect what I can do."
That’s what the Mariners are betting.
"I liked what I saw," Servais said. "He’s going to help us. There’s no doubt."
One plus for Storen over Benoit is he comes with no restrictions.
The Mariners have been carrying eight relievers in part because Benoit’s shoulder problems turned his status into a daily question for much of the season. Pitching back-to-back days wasn’t an option.
The main question surrounding Storen is diminished velocity; radar readings show his fastball is down a mile or two from previous years. He acknowledges this but points to an explanation.
"I think that’s the culmination of not getting a lot of work," he said. "Also I was used to pitching in high-leverage situations. You get that extra little oomph in there.
"At the same time, when you’re facing hitters in the AL East (and its hitter-friendly parks), you don’t want to overthrow. That’s when you leave it up. You can’t afford a pop fly in that division.
"I concentrated more on my sinker. Just kind of using that. But I could reach back for 94 (mph). It’s not like I was always sitting 94-95-96 (in the past). I would just hit it every once in a while.
"Personally, I feel like the ball is coming out really well, and it’s moving more than it ever has before. So it’s just a matter of executing."
The Mariners have already made two recent trades and remain active in discussions as the deadline approaches for non-waiver deals at 1 p.m. Pacific time on Monday.
Trades can be made after the deadline but the players involved must pass through revokable waivers, which offer the opportunity for any other club to claim the player’s contract.
A club can revoke waivers on a claimed player, but it loses that privilege if it sends that player through waivers a second time.
Several clubs, including the Chicago Cubs and Texas, are believed to have contacted the Mariners about pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. The Mariners show little inclination to trade either one but are shopping Wade Miley.
Miami has shown interest in Miley, who delivered quality starts in his last two outings. He is next scheduled to start Saturday against the Cubs.
The Mariners are linked in interest to Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce, Los Angeles Angels right-handed reliever Joe Smith and Arizona right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson.
The Smith rumor isn’t surprising because general manager Jerry Dipoto, as the Angels GM, signed Smith as a free agent after the 2013 season. Smith will be a free agent after the season.
The Hudson rumor seems less likely because the Mariners just acquired a struggling right-handed reliever in Storen. And like Storen (and Smith), Hudson will be a free agent after the season.
Bruce is the type of outfield bat the Mariners covet going forward. He currently leads the National League with 79 RBIs while batting .271 with 25 homers.
Several other clubs are also believed to be interested in Bruce, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore, San Francisco, Washington, Texas and Cleveland. Bruce’s contract has a club option next year for $13 million.
The Mariners have reached 100 games and, at 51-49, have an open date before opening their weekend series at Wrigley Field. Some updated postseason odds:
***Fangraphs.com projects the Mariners to finish at 83-79 and in third place in the American League West Division, five games behind first-place Texas. It computes the Mariners have a 16.9-percent chance to reach postseason.
***Baseballprospectus.com projects the Mariners to finish at 84-78 and in third place in the AL West, four games behind first-place Texas. It computes the Mariners have a 24.9-percent chance to reach postseason.
***ESPN.com projects the Mariners to finish at 82-80 and in third place in the AL West, seven games behind first-place Texas. It computes the Mariners have an 18 percent chance to reach postseason.
Five players from Short-A Everett were picked to represent the Northwest League in its annual all-star game against the Pioneer League on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah.
The AquaSox’s selections include outfielder Kyle Lewis, who recently suffered a major knee injury. The other four are right-handed pitchers Ljay Newsome and Brandon Miller, shortstop Donnie Walton and outfielder Eric Filia.
Newsome was a 26th-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. The other four were selected in this year’s draft: Lewis in the first round, Walton in the fifth round, Miller in the sixth round and Filia in the 20th round.
It was eight years ago Friday — July 29, 2008 — that Ichiro Suzuki collected his 3,000th career hit in an 11-10 loss at Texas. That total included 1,278 hits over his nine seasons in Japan before coming to the big leagues in 2001.
Suzuki now plays for Miami and entered Thursday with 2,997 hits in his 16 big-league seasons. The first 2,533 of those hits came in his 11 1/2 seasons with the Mariners.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker, out since July 5 because of tendinitis in his right foot, is scheduled to throw a bullpen workout Friday before departing on a minor-league rehab assignment. He is expected to start Monday for Triple-A Tacoma against Albuquerque (Rockies) at Cheney Stadium…plans call for right-handed reliever Nick Vincent, out since June 26 because of a strained muscle in his middle back, to begin throwing from a mound this weekend at Tacoma…the Mariners are playing at Wrigley Field for only the second time in franchise history. They lost two of three to the Cubs from June 12-14, 2007. The Cubs have made three trips to Safeco Field (2002, 2010 and 2013) and have a 5-4 edge in those games for a 7-5 overall advantage in the all-time series.
The Mariners open a three-game weekend series at 11:20 a.m. Pacific time Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It will be their first trip to the North Side since 2007.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (11-6 with a 3.96 ERA) will face Cubs lefty and Bellarmine alum Jon Lester (10-4, 3.09). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners