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Washington Nationals’ set-up man Brandon Kintzler talks returning to D.C., taking Max Scherzer’s advice...

Brandon Kintzler tested the free agent market, but returned to the Nationals who acquired him from the Twins last July on a 2-year/$10M deal that includes incentives...

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Hours before the Washington Nationals’ 2-year/$10M contract with free agent reliever Brandon Kintzler was announced, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo was on MLB Network Radio from the Winter Meetings, talking about what the sinker-balling right-hander brought to the bullpen in D.C. after he’d been acquired from the Minnesota Twins last July.

“Kintzler was great for us,” Rizzo told hosts Jim Bowden, Jim Duquette, and Mike Ferrin.

“We loved him. He performed extremely well for us on the field, but he was better off the field even than he performed on the field.”

Kintzler posted a 2.78 ERA, a 3.69 FIP, 11 walks (2.18 BB/9), 27 Ks (5.36 K/9), 28 saves, and a .246/.297/.329 line against in 45 13 innings for the Twins, and a 3.46 ERA, a 3.93 FIP, five walks (1.73 BB/9), 12 Ks (4.15 K/9), and a .253/.295/.364 line against as a Nat.

In spite of his success over the last few seasons with the Twins, and his good showing as part of the Nationals’ bullpen, Kintzler told Bowden, Duquette, and Ferrin, in an MLB Network Radio interview of his own on Thursday afternoon, that he didn’t get much respect on the free agent market before he decided to return to Washington, and he said the way the 2017 season ended, with an NLDS loss to Chicago’s Cubs, also factored into his decision.

MLB: NLDS-Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

“I think I felt a little bitter when we just got eliminated last year,” Kintzler explained.

“I definitely felt like we had the better team, and why not try to go back there. It was already a great clubhouse. It’s really annoying to go to a new team, you really don’t know anyone and this team [welcomed] me with open arms, and the guys in the bullpen were awesome to be around, so it was a very easy decision for me as long as we could get the terms right.”

The terms of the deal, which is reportedly a physical away from being official, are a little more nuanced than just two years and $10M as the reliever detailed.

“We wanted to make it more to where I could go earn my money,” he said, “so it would be like $5M guaranteed for next year and then there’s a $10M option from them, and they say if I have a great year if they deny that I can pick up my own $5M option or I can go test the free agent market again, so at least I can go pitch for something.”

Giving himself a little competitive motivation, Kintzler said, seemed like a good idea.

“I think, well, say if I have a great year and then you’re making the same — honestly I didn’t get a lot of respect on the free agent market from a lot of teams, and everyone thinks I’m lucky, so I figured I’ll just do it again and hopefully the Nats appreciate that again and either they want to give me a raise or if I, worst-case, renegotiate, or I can go test the market again.”

The lack of respect, he said, was based mainly on the fact that people prefer strikeout pitchers, and he’s a ground ball inducer who brings a different look to a bullpen that is full or hard-throwing relievers, especially at the back end where he’ll likely work in the seventh with Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle in the eighth and ninth, respectively, as they did after all three were acquired last season.

“A lot of guys just use computers, and they don’t want — I’m starting to learn that if you’re a good pitcher it doesn’t matter, that everyone just wants strikeouts, which is fine,” Kintzler said. “I got Max Scherzer to teach me a few things he said, so five — I guess five-pitch innings isn’t something that everyone really appreciated, but the Nats, they pushed the hardest and I felt like they wanted me most and that was really important, because I think through my career not many front offices really wanted me, I think they tolerated me, but Rizzo made it seem like they wanted me, so that was a really easy decision for me to go there. But this day and age you still get the contracts, everyone is strikeout guys, I’m learning that All-Stars and saves and low ERAs just don’t matter anymore.”

Though he found that his game wasn’t necessarily appreciated as much as some who put up higher K totals, Kintzler said he didn’t think he’s going to change anything up.

“I don’t want to change much,” he said.

“I was still working with Scherzer on some stuff towards the end and I started to get some little more strikeouts here and there like in the playoffs. I’m not going to change who I am, but I think I can get to two strikes with the best of them, 0-2, real quick, and if I can put away guys, maybe with a strikeout, maybe people will like me more, I don’t know, but either way I’m going to get the guy out, I wish they would just say, ‘Well, he gets guys out, that’s great,’ but everyone wants to say, ‘We don’t want the ball put in play,’ but if I’ve got five Gold Glovers behind me I really don’t mind them catching the ball either.”

He mentioned Scherzer twice, so of course the show’s hosts asked what kind of advice the NL Cy Young winner in each of the last two seasons was giving.

“Obviously he pitches up in the zone and I always feel like a lot of guys are diving down on me, and a lot of times they’ll take close pitches down there,” Kintzler explained.

“I felt like if you take a close pitch at the bottom of the zone then you’re obviously looking down there, so he talked about maybe just throwing high four-seamers, just throw it up and he says a lot of times they might swing and miss, or worst-case you can go back to what you were doing or throw a high two-seamer.

“Cause I feel like throwing a fastball you can make it five or six different pitches, and talking to Scherzer, he kind of helped take it to another level.

“Talking to him anyways is a whole nother level, but now we’re going to start working on his changeup. I used it in the playoffs against [Kris] Bryant, and it started to look like it was going to be a good weapon for me. So, Scherzer texted me last night and said Spring Training should be fun, so I’m really interested to see what I get to learn.”