About six hours after he arrived in Nationals Park, Kelvin Herrera tossed a six-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the eighth against the Baltimore Orioles in his debut for Washington, a night after a trade brought him over from the Kansas City Royals.
Herrera, 28, was acquired in a 3-for-1 deal with the Royals that sent Kelvin Gutierrez (SS/3B), Blake Perkins (OF), and Yohanse Morel (RHP) to Kansas City.
His flight to D.C. was delayed by bad weather, but he arrived in time to talk with reporters in the nation’s capital, reiterating what he’d said after initially learning about the deal. It came as a surprise.
“It was unexpected for me, and everything happened so quick,” Herrera said through a translator. “I was in shock when they originally told me cause it was a little unexpected.”
“You see and read it in the media with all the trade talks that happen,” he added. “When I say a little unexpected, it’s just the fact that it happened in mid-June, as opposed to a little later. I kind of assumed it might happen a little later, but it happened now, so that’s why I was a little in shock, a little unexpected for me.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said talks with the Royals began 3-4 weeks back, and Herrera fit the needs in the Nats’ bullpen.
“We identified our need to strengthen our bullpen early on in the season this year,” Rizzo explained. “We love the back end of our bullpen, but the front end of it was struggling early on during the season, and we thought that the way that we were relying on our big three or four guys, that we were going to need to get some help in here. We wanted a guy that had been through the wars before, that’s been established, and was pitching extremely well.”
“Kelvin fit all those criteria, and we got a guy with great makeup,” the GM added. “Johnny DiPuglia, our international guy, knows him extremely well through Rene Francisco of the Royals, and I’ve seen him pitch for many, many years.
“He was a guy that we really liked the person, one, and how he performed, two, and his makeup, three.”
Herrera put up a 1.05 ERA, and a 2.62 FIP, with two walks (0.70 BB/9), 22 Ks (7.71 K/9), and a .204/.223/.283 line against in 25 2⁄3 innings for the Royals, saving 14 games before the trade.
He talked to his new manager, Davey Martinez, about the role he’ll be asked to fill with his new team.
“We had a great conversation,” Herrera said.
“He seems like a great guy. We had a short talk just in general about my role within the team and within the bullpen, just general, and to feel welcome that he embraced me very well.”
Martinez said he understood that it was all a big change for Herrera, who was drafted and developed by the Royals, but thought that some former teammates who are now with the Nationals could make him feel at home.
“He’s got so many good friends there, and it’s tough,” Martinez said.
“He played with Tim Collins. He played with [Ryan] Madson, and they all welcomed him. He came in and he even said, he said, “I heard you guys are a good bunch of guys and you guys like to have fun,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, you’ll really enjoy it right here and you’ll fit right in.’”
“It’s like going into a new neighborhood,” Herrera said, “but yet you have two old neighbors in the neighborhood, so even though it’s new it feels great and welcoming to have them.
“They were great teammates of mine in Kansas City, so I feel great to have them on board.”
As for his thoughts on his new team?
“The one thing I have seen about this team for the past three years is that they’re always in the battle and the fight for the playoffs and which is great chemistry here,” he said, “... and I’m just ready to join the team and help any way I can and jump on board.”
Martinez liked what he saw from Herrera in the righty’s Nationals debut.
“Nice little toy to have,” he said when a reporter joked that the manager couldn’t wait to use his new reliever.
“He was dynamite. Six pitches, came in and threw strikes. He knows what he’s doing. He goes in there and he gets outs. Quick outs.”