This might be the best “Where were you when you learned you were traded?” response in baseball history.
“I was in the middle of feeding a rhino and a giraffe,” 32-year-old reliever Brandon Kintzler said on MLB Network Radio on Monday, after learning that the Minnesota Twins traded him to the Washington Nationals moments before the 4:00 PM non-waiver deadline.
Kintzler was enjoying an off day in San Diego, where the Twins are set to play two with the Padres.
“And then I found out that I was going to the Nats and I’m excited,” Kintzler added, “because I go to a nice race.”
In the last two weeks, the Nationals added Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, in a deal with the Oakland A’s, and now Kintzler to a bullpen that’s been an obvious weak spot since the start of the 2017 campaign.
Those fans holding out hope for the Cincinnati’s Raisel Iglesias, who stayed with the Reds; the Padres’ Brad Hand, who stayed in San Diego; the Orioles’ Zach Britton, who is still in Baltimore; or maybe Detroit Tigers’ closer Justin Wilson, who was dealt to the Chicago Cubs; might have been underwhelmed with the move GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office finally made.
What was Brandon Kintzler doing when he found out he was traded? Feeding a rhino, of course.#Nationals #Twins— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) July 31, 2017
Rumors of talks between the Nationals and Minnesota Twins didn’t really surface until early Monday afternoon, with the non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching.
According to Rizzo, the trade wasn’t made until just moments before the deadline.
“But we finally agreed to a level of prospects and a deal that was something that appealed to us,” Rizzo told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes. “And we made the deal.”
After the trade with the A’s and today’s deal with the Twins, the Nationals think they have the bullpen arms they need.
“I think what we were looking to do is shore up the back end of the game and make the game shorter,” Rizzo said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“And I think we’ve done that here with the addition of Brandon and Ryan and Sean. We really like the look of our bullpen right now.”
Dusty Baker said he had options now, and that’s what any manager wants.
“Any time you can have multiple guys you can extend them, different guys on different days, you don’t just have to just depend on a couple guys in this situation and maybe one guy in this situation, so again like I said, we’ve got to take care of the guys that we have now, and like I said, this a welcome addition.”
“He pounds the strike zone,” Rizzo said when asked what type of pitcher the Nationals acquired.
“Big strike thrower, got a good sinker, throws a lot of ground balls, gets a lot of weak contact, capable against right-handers and left-handers, and a guy that is obviously experienced in pitching back ends of the games. He’s finished the final three outs in games, in important games for the Twins, and I think has the capabilities of pitching in a lot of different roles and one of those roles being the ninth inning.”
Neither Rizzo or Baker said they had defined roles in mind for their relievers yet. Baker said he and his staff would think about their options, and it’s something the pitchers themselves will help sort out.
“I just talked to Rizzo about five minutes ago,” Kintzler said in his MLB Network Radio interview, when asked if he discussed what role he would fill.
“He just said they’re excited to have me, ‘Welcome to the Nationals,’ and hopefully they can get me to Miami tomorrow.”
“They didn’t say anything about a role or anything, I’m sure when I get there they’ll figure that out, but obviously I’ve done it all, so I’m open to doing anything, I’m just excited to be part of the race.”
If he’s asked to go out there in the ninth, Kintzler said he would be ready.
He credited former major league reliever, and current Twins’ bullpen coach Eddie Guardado with helping develop his approach to high-pressure situations.
Over the last two seasons in Minnesota, Kintzler has put up a 2.98 ERA, a 3.64 FIP, 19 walks and 62 Ks in 99 2⁄3 IP, with 45 saves over that stretch.
“I had Eddie Guardado for a couple years who really tutored me the whole time on really how to slow the game down, and I just embraced it,” Kintzler said.
His mindset and approach on the mound?
“My mindset is to get you out as quick as possible on the least amount of pitches,” Kintzler said.
“I don’t care how I get you out. Obviously my No. 1 pitch is my sinker, so I’m just trying to attack you so I make you a little uncomfortable. In the ninth inning or whatever inning, a pressure situation. A lot of times guys they do want to swing, so if I can just make a pitch really look good for a split second and create late movement then I can create weak contact, so I’m just really trying to force the issue and make you swing and make you uncomfortable.”