Just six days back, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies about sending Dan Jennings out to a minor league affiliate to start the 32-year-old reliever on his way towards the major league roster.
Jennings signed a minor league deal on April 15th after he was released by the Los Angeles Angels in late March.
The seven-year veteran is coming off a 2018 campaign in which he made 72 appearances out of the bullpen for the Milwaukee Brewers, putting up a 3.22 ERA, a 4.09 FIP, 23 walks, 45 Ks, and a .275/.337/.421 line against in 64 1⁄3 innings, with .226/.266/.304 vs left-handed hitters, and .320/.399/.528 vs right-handers.
“Jennings is a competent major league pitcher,” Rizzo told the Junkies two days after the left-hander signed on with the Nats.
“He’s very durable, very reliable, pitched for the Brewers last year, and I think he was in 72 or 73 games last year, and the guy just gives us more depth — it’s a minor league deal — gives us depth more depth in the minor leagues in case we need to go summon him and get some hitters out in the big leagues.”
Last week, in his regular spot with the Junkies, Rizzo said the reliever was still working to get ready for big league competition, and was getting close.
“He’s in the minor leagues getting ready to get to full activities,” the GM explained.
“He’s kind of going through a mini version of Spring Training. He was in Spring Training with the [Angels] and then opted out of it and we picked him up, so he’s going to go to an affiliate and we’re going to see what he looks like and get some appearances under his belt and we’ll have to extend him out, then go back-to-backs, and see if he can handle the rigors of a major league bullpen.”
Jennings made three appearances out of the ‘pen at Double-A Harrisburg, giving up four hits and one earned run in 3 2⁄3 IP before he was called up to the majors this afternoon as Anthony Rendon went on the 10-Day IL.
Jennings told reporters in the nation’s capital this afternoon that he thought he was ahead of the game in spite of his late signing, after he was released by the Tampa Bay Rays late in Spring Training last season and signed by the Brewers right before Opening Day.
“I think one thing I have going for me,” he said, “is last year when I signed with the Brewers it was Opening Day, and my first appearance I was in to face Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded, one out, so you get thrown right into the fire with a new team. I barely knew my catcher’s name, so I’m already a step ahead there because I’ve already conversations with both catchers here, so I feel like I’m ahead of the game a little bit.”
Jennings got an inning-ending double play out of Hosmer in that initial appearance for the Brewers, and returned to the mound for another scoreless inning in relief after that, in the first of his 72 appearances for Milwaukee.
He said today that he prides himself on being able to go out there whenever he’s asked.
“That’s something I really took pride in is: always ready, every day,” Jennings said.
“Managers that have had me in the past knew they didn’t have to ask,” he continued, “cause I was never going to shy away from taking the ball and they have to basically rip it out of my hands once I’m out there because I just love to pitch. I mean, that’s it, that’s what it comes down to is I just love to pitch, and I always want to be out there every day, and I can’t even fathom having a quote unquote ‘day off.’”
Jennings was thrown right into the fire again on Tuesday night, with Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez turning to the left-hander in the top of the ninth with the Nationals trailing by a run, and the southpaw retired the first two batters he faced before Tyler O’Neill hit a well-struck liner out to the mound where it bounced off the palm of the pitcher’s glove hand and bounced out onto the infield grass for a single.
Jennings got a visit on the mound, but stayed in the game, issuing a walk in the next at bat before he was lifted from his debut in D.C.