Jonny Venters and Fernando Rodney were available when they signed with Washington in late May and early June, respectively, because they struggled early this season, Venters in Atlanta, and Rodney out in Oakland.
Venters, 34, gave up nine hits, eight walks (15.34 BB/9), and 13 runs, nine earned, in nine games and 4 2⁄3 innings (17.36 ERA, 13.89 FIP), with seven strikeouts (13.50 K/9) before he was released by the Braves.
Rodney, 42, had a 9.42 ERA, a 5.56 FIP, 12 walks (7.53 BB/9), and 14 Ks (8.79 K/9) in 17 games and 14 1⁄3 IP before he was released by the A’s.
Venters had a 1.29 ERA, a 4.98 FIP, six walks, and four Ks in seven innings on the mound at Double-A Harrisburg after signing a minor league deal with the Nationals.
Rodney posted a 4.50 ERA, a 6.35 FIP, nine walks (10.13 BB/9), and 14 strikeouts (12.38 K/9) in nine games and eight innings pitched at Triple-A Fresno in the Nats’ system.
“They both checked all the boxes,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, after the veteran relievers officially joined the team in Miami.
“The biggest thing was getting them to start throwing again,” Martinez continued.
“When we signed them, they weren’t pitching that much. So we wanted to make sure they were ready. And they did that. ... We thought this was the time, that they’re ready.”
As for what he expects from them and how he intends to use them?
“I told them: ‘You’re going to have to be ready to pitch on any given day,’” Martinez said.
“They’ll have some high-leverage situations. I like Venters, especially on lefties. And Rodney, he was a closer for many, many years. He understands high-leverage situations. We’ll see how they fit in.”
Venters said he was just happy to get another opportunity after a rough start to the season for the southpaw, who’s worked his way back from three and a half Tommy John surgeries.
“Obviously the beginning of the season was tough,” he told reporters before the start of the series with the Marlins. “I just didn’t pitch well, didn’t throw a lot of strikes, and when I did they seemed to get hit pretty hard, so between then and now, I’ve really just grinded, you know, tried to make some adjustments to my delivery and maybe how I was pitching guys and just try to fill up the zone, throw some strikes, and get some swings early, so hopefully that will carry over.”
He also said he thought a change of scenery might help him turn things around.
“When you get into a rut and you’re having a hard time getting out of [it], I think a new start, a fresh environment can help mentally,” Venters said. “It’s tough when you’re going to the yard every day and you know you’re struggling, and sometimes a change of scenery is what you need.”
Rodney said he just wanted to help the team continue the run they’ve been on recently.
“They bring me here to help the team to get rolling,” the oldest active player in the majors said.
“I think we’re in a good situation, good shape,” he added, “and we’ve got a good team and a lot of young talent in this room we can help and try to get to the postseason.”
His goal is simple.
“Get my three outs when they give me the chance,” Rodney said. “I think we got a lot of young guys here in the bullpen that need maybe some help in some situations. We can work together and make it work.”
Rodney got three outs in his debut for the Nationals in Miami, walking the first batter he faced before picking up a strikeout and getting a double play in an 11-pitch, seven-strike frame in the ninth in Marlins Park.
“That’s what I’ve known about Fernando,” Martinez said after the 6-1 win over the Fish. “I’ve seen that before. He can come in and go 0-2 to 4-2, and then throw some nasty pitches, he threw a great changeup to Neil Walker and threw a really good sinker to [Starlin] Castro and then came back with 96, but he’s a veteran guy, knows how to pitch.
“I’ve seen him come in and walk the first guy and settle down and get three outs, quick outs, so it’s nice, I’ve known him for a long time, he’s going to get an opportunity to pitch here and I hope he just continues to do well.”