Trevor Rosenthal faced 10 batters this season before he recorded an out. He went on the 10-Day Injured List with a viral infection back on April 26th, at which point the recently-turned 29-year-old, seven-year veteran had given up seven hits, nine walks, and 12 runs, all earned, in seven games and three innings pitched, over which he’d also hit three batters and thrown five wild pitches.
“We’ve had discussions on different ways of handling his situation,” GM Mike Rizzo said, as quoted by NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas, after Rosenthal went on the IL.
“He’s been totally cooperative,” Rizzo added. “There’s nobody that feels worse about how he is performing than Trevor Rosenthal. He’s a great teammate, the makeup is terrific, he wants to help his team, and he is going to do what he has to do to get better and to help the club.”
“He’s a big part of this team. We need to get him fixed.”
Rosenthal was signed to work the eighth inning as a set-up man for Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle, but he struggled along with most of the rest of the relief corps and forced Rizzo and Co. in the front office to flail about for potential fixes to the most glaring of many early-season issues which plagued the team in the first months of the 2019 campaign.
Coming off Tommy John surgery, Rosenthal had impressed in a showcase for scouts around the league last Fall, and the Nationals rushed to get him signed shortly after seeing him out on a mound again.
Before the injury, the former St. Louis Cardinals’ closer had a 2.99 ERA, a 2.60 FIP, 143 walks, and 435 Ks in 328 games and 325 IP in his career.
“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 hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier in early April.
“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.”
Things haven’t gone as anyone hoped so far, but the reliever is putting in the work to try to turn things around.
Rosenthal went down to Double-A after landing on the IL in late April, and gave up nine hits, two walks, and six runs, all earned, in 9 1⁄3 IP (5.79 ERA) before he was reinstated from the IL in advance of the third of four with the San Diego Padres in Petco Park.
Talking to reporters after he joined the team in California, Rosenthal acknowledged that it’s been a struggle.
“I mean it’s been challenging, you know, no doubt,” Rosenthal said.
“But nothing is super-easy most of the time. It was not really something that I foresaw having to go through and work through, but I’ve enjoyed it, getting to spend time in different parts of this organization and with a lot of different people, it’s really opened my eyes to how great of an organization, how many great people here, and I’ve had so much support.”
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said they decided to bring Rosenthal up after he threw in back-to-back games earlier this week and looked good on the mound.
“He’s been throwing the ball well, had two pretty good outings,” Martinez explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“And while he’s feeling good about himself, we thought it would be good to have him join the team and try to help us win some games.”
As for how the Nationals will use Rosenthal as he works his way back into the bullpen mix?
“We’ll definitely have to start off slow and hopefully use him in low-leverage situations and get him back comfortable,” Martinez said.
“But he threw the ball well his last two outings. 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 said he just wanted to move past the frustrating start to his first season in D.C. and contribute to the team.
“Throughout the whole process,” he said, “what I’ve realized the most frustrating thing is, is when I’d be warming up or playing catch, everything would be really solid and feel great, and then as soon as I tried to do ‘more’, I guess, would be the term of trying to make a certain pitch or with a batter in the box trying to do a little bit extra is when the results weren’t how I wanted. It didn’t necessarily feel different, but the results were just not happening the way I’d planned, so I’ve kind of taken a step back I think and just trying to almost approach it the same as my warmup pitches, and with that sort of effort-level and build off of that I think is what’s been helping me most recently.”
Will he be able to turn things around and contribute from here on out?
Having Rosenthal throw like he did in his first seven seasons in the majors would go a long way in helping the Nationals turn things around with their NL-worst relief corps.
If he continues to go out there and struggle? There could be some difficult decisions for the Nationals ahead...