With Washington’s bullpen one of the worst in the National League over the first two months of the 2019 campaign, GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office were determined to try anything they could to turn things around.
“We went and reached for Tanner Rainey who’s shown that he has major league stuff and is kind of a reliable guy who can throw it over the plate,” Rizzo explained, in an interview with 106.7 the FAN’s Sports Junkies in late May, “and we think that he’ll help us, we went out and got Javy Guerra who’s a proven veteran relief pitcher who you trust is going to throw strikes and give you a chance to win and that type of thing.
“We’re looking for all avenues to improve ourselves bullpen-wise.”
They also signed and promoted Tony Sipp in mid-May, after a Dan Jennings experiment did not work out.
They selected the contract of veteran reliever George Kontos from the Long Island Ducks on May 25, signed free agent lefty Jonny Venters on the 29th of May, and on June 4th, they added Fernando Rodney, the 42-year-old, 17-year veteran reliever who struggled (9.42 ERA in 14 1⁄3 IP) in Oakland and had been released by the A’s the previous week.
Rodney was sent to Triple-A Fresno, where Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez, (who had history with the reliever from Tampa Bay and Chicago), hoped they could get him right and see if the right-hander could potentially contribute in the majors.
“As long as he can get outs, and he feels like he can get outs,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr on June 2nd, before the signing was officially announced.
“He’s got two good pitches, really does. His changeup is unbelievable. I looked at some of his stuff. [We’ve] got to get him back on track. He’s walked a lot of guys and that’s typically not what he does. He’s usually a strike thrower. He’s going to go down there and (we’ll) probably hone in on him a little bit and see where he’s at. Hopefully, he can come up here and help us.”
Rodney’s sinker was still 93-95 with the Athletics, though opposing hitters had a .500 AVG against it, (while hitting just .188 on his changeup), and as Martinez mentioned, with the A’s, he was struggling with his command and wasn’t throwing as many strikes as he usually did (39.5% Zone%; down from a career average of 45.5%), or generating nearly as many swinging strikes (8.7% SwStr%; down from 11.1% in 2018; and a career average of 11.4%).
He walked 12 batters (7.53 BB/9), and struck out 14 (8.79 K/9) in his time with the Athletics, with the walks up from a career average of 4.48 BB/9, and had a 2.23 WHIP before he was released.
In nine appearances and 8.0 IP at Triple-A in the Nationals’ system, Rodney has posted a 4.50 ERA, a 6.34 FIP, nine walks (10.13 BB/9), and 11 Ks (12.38 K/9).
According to multiple reports this afternoon, Rodney is being added to the Nationals’ pen in advance of the upcoming three-game series with the Miami Marlins.
Washington Post beat writer Jesse Dougherty was the first (we saw) with the news:
Breaking — The Nationals will activate Fernando Rodney to their 25-man roster before Tuesday's game against the Marlins. He will take the 40-man roster spot that opened after Trevor Rosenthal was released: https://t.co/dng5AdCh6X— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) June 24, 2019
The Nationals will call up Fernando Rodney ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Marlins, a source confirms @dougherty_jesse’s report.— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) June 24, 2019
Nationals are calling up 42-year-old Fernando Rodney before tomorrow’s series opener in Miami, a source confirms. Was released by OAK after posting a 9.42 ERA in 17 games, signed minors deal with WSH and had 4.50 ERA in 9 games with Fresno. (1st reported by @dougherty_jesse)— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) June 24, 2019