Fernando Rodney was released by the Oakland A’s after putting up a 9.42 ERA, a 5.56 FIP, 12 walks (7.53 BB/9), and 14 Ks (8.79 K/9) over 17 games and 14 1⁄3 innings early this season, and he signed a minor league deal with Washington on June 4th before getting called up by the Nationals on June 25th.
“Fernando came highly recommended by our scouts when we signed him after Oakland released him,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week, “and really the reason I went and reached for him is the way he was pitching in Triple-A, he came highly-recommended by Brad Holman and Randy Knorr, our Triple-A staff over there.”
Rodney put up a 4.50 ERA, a 6.35 FIP, nine walks (10.13 BB/9), and 14 Ks (12.38 K/9) in nine games and 8 IP at Triple-A Fresno in the Nationals’ system before he was called up... so what exactly did the Grizzlies’ staff see?
“They said — because I was particularly concerned about the walk-rate, you know, Fernando has always been a guy who could strike you out, but he would also have some walks and that Fresno league, that Pacific Coast League, and Fresno is no joke, it’s a tough pitchers’ league, and Randy said look past the amount of walks and look at how the appearances went, and he said he’s going to help you.
“You’re right when you say this guy has been there and done that,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“He’s a guy that comes in at the end of games and is not going to be intimidated by the role and by the situation and we needed guys that had some stuff, that were going to pump strikes, were not afraid of the moment, and he checked off all three of those boxes and he’s a guy that’s done it before, and he brings some leadership to that bullpen.
“Him and [Jonny] Venters, and Javy Guerra [have been great acquisitions] for us, and that bullpen kind of solidified roles, kind of had some major league experience, and all three of those guys have pitched at the end of games and aren’t going to be intimidated by the situation.”
Venters, who was released by Atlanta after giving up nine hits, eight walks, and 13 runs (9 ER), in nine games and 4 2⁄3 innings for the Braves, was called up when the Nats reached down for Rodney, and he made his first appearance with 1 2⁄3 scoreless out of the bullpen last weekend in Detroit.
“It was awesome to see,” Martinez said after what ended up a 7-5 loss to the Tigers.
“That sinker is really, really good, and he threw a couple sliders, and he actually threw a changeup that, honestly, I didn’t know he threw a changeup. And it was really, really good.
“If we can get him and Rodney to pitch like that and the way Rodney has been pitching it helps our bullpen out tremendously.”
Rodney earned his first save of the season the previous night, in a 3-1 win, in his second scoreless appearance after joining the Nationals.
“They’re excited to be here,” Martinez told reporters when asked about the contributions he’s gotten from the veteran relievers.
“We’re playing well, they fit right in, they’ve both got a lot of energy, and their value not only on the field but off the field, you know, because they’re veteran guys and with the young guys that we have, their communication with the young guys has been really incredible, so having them both and having them both do well, is exciting.”
Rodney retired two batters in Wednesday’s win over the Miami Marlins, and with closer Sean Doolittle unavailable after earning the save in a season-high, 33-pitch appearance, Martinez called on the reliever for a save opportunity in the series finale with the Fish.
So is Rodney already Martinez’s top option when Doolittle’s unavailable?
“I said before, here’s a guy that’s done it, and was really effective doing it, and he comes out and he pumps strikes, that’s what he does, and I like what I’m seeing from him,” the skipper said.
“He surprised me today, throwing 99 [MPH], and after the game I looked at him, I said, ‘Where’d that come from?’ And he goes, ‘I still got some.’ But if he can do that, and Doo can’t go, he’s going to be the guy.”
Was there any concern when Rodney gave up back-to-back, two-out singles to bring the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth?
“You’ve got to let him go,” Martinez said. “And I told him, and one thing [Kurt] Suzuki did well, he got him right back on there and he went back to using his changeup. And that’s what he needs to do.
“He can’t just — he wants to just pump fastballs, fastballs, but he’s got a really good changeup, so he has to keep guys off-balance and use it.”