Brandon Kintzler returned to the mound this afternoon with a scoreless inning of work for the High-A Potomac Nationals. He needed just 12 pitches to retire the side in order in his first appearance since June 9th, when he left the mound with what was later diagnosed as a right forearm flexor strain which landed him on the Disabled List.
Before Saturday afternoon’s game with the Philadelphia Phillies, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez was asked what the mix would be in Washington’s bullpen when Kintzler returned, since the Nationals acquired another late-inning arm in his absence, bringing veteran right-hander Kelvin Herrera over from Kansas City to bolster the relief corps in the nation’s capital.
“He’ll do his rehab and hopefully he travels with us, but we’ll see how it goes,” Martinez said, declining to discuss what’s essentially a hypothetical until Kintzler is back, but he did return to the topic later in his pregame press conference.
“One is to make sure he comes out of this okay,” Martinez said, referring to the rehab outing for Kintzler, “... and once that happens we’ll sit down and reevaluate how we’re going to use all those guys, but he’s definitely a big addition to our bullpen for sure.
“It’s nice to be able to match those guys up according to lineups and pinch hitters and stuff like that, so he’ll still be in the back end of that bullpen along with all those other guys.”
And Kintzler, in particular, has stuff that’s suited to certain situations, Martinez said.
“Brandon throws ground balls,” he explained. “So in a situation where we need a ground ball, whether it’s the sixth inning, seventh inning, or whatever, he’s the guy.
“When we need strikeouts you have those other guys, so he’s definitely a big part of our success moving forward.”
Martinez was also asked if he might be willing to use both Herrera and Sean Doolilttle as the closer if matchups were more suited to one or the other given the former Royals’ reliever’s experience in the ninth.
“We talked about that,” Martinez said. “Not right now, but as we get closer to September and stuff like that, those things might happen, but it will be a conversation I have with all of them.
“Doo is good, left/right, he gets guys out, and he’s done it, he’s pitched in the ninth inning, so has Herrera, so they’re both really good, and to be able to have them and [Ryan] Madson and Kintzler at the back end there, it’s a good feeling knowing when you’ve got the lead in the sixth/seventh inning you have those guys coming in.”
Doolittle has locked down 20 of 21 opportunities thus far, with a 1.65 ERA and .134/.171/.232 line against in 32 2⁄3 IP, and left-handers are hitless in 25 plate appearances against the Nats’ southpaw thus far, with right-handers putting up a .167/.185/.289 line against him.
Herrera (who’s held right-handers to a .222/.234/.286 line and lefties to a .175/.214/.325 line), has a 1.57 ERA and a .204/.226/.301 line against overall in 28 2⁄3 innings pitched on the year after he struggled in Saturday afternoon’s game, giving up two hits (one a homer), a walk, and two runs total in an inning of work, which was more runs than he’d allowed over his last 17 IP.
He said afterwards that he’s still adjusting to his new role, though it’s all essentially the same to him.
“It’s a new role for me,” Herrera explained, through an interpreter.
“I need to prepare myself a little earlier, but at the end it’s the same job, I’ve got one inning to pitch and I’ve got to do my job.”
Asked if the intensity was different in the eighth, after he’d saved 14 games with the Royals before the trade, however, he said, “No.”
“I feel like the last two innings are the most important innings in a game and I always have to come out aggressive.”
There might have to be some adjustments for the relievers involved, but Martinez and the Nationals have plenty of options to choose from in the late innings going forward.