Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters over the weekend that he was looking for the right spot to work Trevor Rosenthal back into the bullpen mix, hopefully in a low-leverage situation the first time back. Rosenthal, 29, struggled out of the gate this year, in his first full season back following Tommy John surgery, but he threw well enough while out on a rehab assignment that the Nats determined it was time to bring him back and see if he could turn things around at the big league level.
“We’ll definitely have to start off slow and hopefully use him in low-leverage situations and get him back comfortable,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, after the veteran reliever, who went on the Injured List with a “viral infection” made 10 appearances at Double-A Harrisburg, giving up nine hits, seven walks, and six earned runs in 9 1⁄3 IP.
“He threw the ball well his last two outings,” Martinez added. “Hopefully, he comes up here and he pitches the way he’s capable of pitching. He’s here for a reason. We saw something in him, and we believe that he can help us.”
Rosenthal, who signed a 1-year/$8M free agent deal with the Nationals this winter, went on the IL after giving up seven hits, nine walks, and 12 ER in seven appearances and 3 IP at the start of the season.
He made his eighth appearance in last night’s game, with the Nationals up 12-1 on the White Sox after eight and a half innings in Chicago, and threw five straight balls to start, walking José Rondón and starting 1-0 on José Abreu before he dropped back-to-back sliders in, belt-high inside for strikes, to get up 1-2.
A third straight slider to Abreu got Rosenthal a ground ball that started a 6-4-3 double play, and a 2-2 slider to James McCann was lined to right fielder Adam Eaton, who caught out No. 3 of a 13-pitch, six-strike return to the majors for the reliever.
“He got in the strike zone,” his manager said after the win over the White Sox. “He got a ground ball for a double play, and he looked comfortable. He looked like he repeated his delivery, which was kind of nice, so I liked it. Like I said, guys made contact, but they put the ball in play, which is fine, and that’s what we want.
“He don’t have to strike out guys, just let your defense play behind you.”
The slider, Martinez said, seemed to settle Rosenthal down and help him get the ball in the zone after he’d struggled with his fastball command again at the outset.
“I think as we watched him down there,” Martinez explained, talking about Rosenthal’s work while he rehabbed, “... when he throws his slider it slows everything down for him, and he’s able to repeat that a lot, and the big thing for him is not to rush and get out there with his head, like we’ve talked about before, just keep his head behind his body so his arm catches up.”
“It’s been something I’ve been working on,” Rosenthal said of the slider, as quoted on MASN after the game.
“It’s helped me to get back in counts. I’m comfortable using it, and it’s an effective pitch. I can throw it in any count right now.”
Rosenthal said he hoped the outing was a stepping stone to a successful run the rest of the way.
Martinez said he thought it could be a big step.
“I really believe that having an outing like this and knowing that he can, like I said, throw his slider, threw a good fastball for a strike at 97, will definitely help him,” the Nats’ skipper said.
“And the more he gets out there, the more comfortable he gets — and he’s done it. This guy has been an unbelievable closer for a lot of years, and we’ve just go to keep him on track.”