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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo on decision to release Trevor Rosenthal

Though he didn’t talk to reporters in the immediate aftermath of the decision to release Trevor Rosenthal, GM Mike Rizzo explained what happened on Wednesday morning...

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo reportedly declined to speak with reporters once the decision was made to release reliever Trevor Rosenthal after the veteran righty struggled in the first three months of the 2019 campaign.

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said it was a tough decision, but the right-hander just couldn’t throw strikes, and after they gave him a last opportunity to show he’d turned a corner and a last outing went south, the Nationals did what they thought was necessary.

“When we got him we knew he had Tommy John surgery,” Martinez explained. “He looked good when we signed him, Spring Training was okay, just, like I said, all of a sudden he couldn’t find the strike zone, and tried to work on some things with him, thought we had — he was pitching better, it just didn’t work out.”

Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office made the decision to sign Rosenthal to a 1-year/$7M deal, after a scout saw the 29-year-old throw in a showcase last winter and raved about what he’d seen.

“I’ve seen enough of Rosenthal over the years to know that I’d rather have him with us than against us,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Grant and Danny in February 2019.

“He’s been remarkable in his career, got hurt, Tommy John, rehabbed it really, really well, 18 months later we had one of our best scouts go out there and see him pitch, and he was really, really excited about him, and a guy who when I read that scout, he very rarely gets as excited as he was, so when we hung up the phone about three hours later we had Rosenthal signed.”

Rosenthal struggled from the start, however, went on the Injured List with a viral infection in late April, returned in June, and ultimately ended up giving up a total of eight hits, 15 walks, and 16 earned runs (22.74 ERA) in 6 1⁄3 innings pitched before he was released.

Why did the Nationals decided to give him another shot when he had struggled during his rehab assignment as well, giving up a total of nine hits, seven walks, and six runs (5.79 ERA) in 9 13 IP at Double-A Harrisburg before he returned to the majors?

“He’s got an established track record,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in his weekly radio spot on Wednesday morning.

“He’s got a bunch of saves in his career, he’s done it in the past,” the GM explained, “and we figured that the rehab schedule was up and we had to make a decision either to release him in the minor leagues or bring him to the big leagues and give him one more opportunity.

“We felt it was in his best interest because he’s worked so damn hard to get himself back on track to give him another chance in the big leagues, and we did, and when it didn’t work out we brought him into the office and told him of our decision. He understood it, took it like a professional, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Rosenthal was well-liked in the clubhouse and the organization, which made the whole situation difficult on a personal level.

“A great guy who works extremely hard,” Rizzo added, “you can see the stuff is there, he just has some things that he certainly needs to iron out and hopefully — he’s a young man — so hopefully his career isn’t over and he can help contribute to another team somewhere.”

Did Rosenthal see it coming considering the issues he was dealing with on the mound?

“These guys are very perceptive and they know what the pitcher looks like, and I don’t think he was shocked when we called him into the manager’s office and told him of our decision,” Rizzo said.

“Like I said, took it like a professional and was a great teammate and a hard worker, just unfortunately it didn’t work out for him and for us, and we move on and that’s — unfortunately that’s part of the game that is kind of forgotten by a lot the fans. These guys aren’t robots, they’re human beings, and they have failures and successes and they’re guys that we’re around a lot, so you feel for the guy.”

“Whenever you’ve got to let go of somebody it’s tough,” Martinez said the day after he was released, “but a guy like Rosie, who I got to appreciate a lot, it was really tough, but he was very professional like he always is, and like I said, I wish him the best and I told him to keep working and we’ll see him down the road.”