Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo sounded excited about the addition of left-handed reliever Roenis Elías when he spoke to reporters after the July 31st trade deadline passed, playing down the southpaw’s reverse splits this season and talking up the addition to the left side of the Nats’ bullpen.
“His splits for his career are almost identical and we feel that he’ll be very effective against lefties and righties,” Rizzo said of the lefty, who came to the Nats with a .353/.441/.549 line vs lefties and a .182/.238/.341 line against vs right-handers in 2019 and a .245/.319/.401 line against vs RHBs, and a .258/.338/.380 line against vs LHBs in his career.
“He’s a guy who has pitched multiple innings in the past, he has saved a bunch of games for the Mariners this year. We like that acquisition. He’s controllable for two seasons beyond this, and he’s a guy that we think really upgrades our left-handed side of the bullpen.”
Elías made one appearance out of the ‘pen for the Nationals on August 2nd, retiring the two batters he faced after coming on with one down, but Nats’ manager Davey Martinez tried to get a few more outs from the southpaw with left-handers due up the next inning, telling the career American Leaguer not to swing when his spot in the order came up.
Elías did swing, however, grounding out, and he injured his right hamstring running to first base, and ended up on the Injured List a few days later.
Still, Rizzo was excited about what he’d bring once he was healthy, telling 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies that Elías would add versatility to the relief corps when he back from the IL.
“Elías gives us a veteran left-handed reliever that has had pretty equal splits against left-handers and right-handers for his career. He’s really dominating right-handed hitters and [has] kind of struggled against left-handers this year, but a guy who’s pitched at the end of games, he’s closed games out for Seattle.
“So his role is very fluid, he can do a lot of different things for us, but he’s a 95 MPH guy from the left side, [and he] throws a good changeup and a breaking ball.”
Twelve days later, the General Manager told the Junkies that they were taking a cautious approach as they tried to get Elías back in the bullpen.
“He’s got that hamstring,” Rizzo explained, “so we have to be cautious with him. He’s in the midst of getting to his mound progression, so we’re hoping in the near future that we get both [closer Sean] Doolittle and Elías back in the bullpen, which will help us.”
That progression led to Elías finally throwing off a bullpen mound in Wrigley Field before the second of three with the Chicago Cubs this weekend, though it wasn’t a full-on session but more of a simulated bullpen as the Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez described it to reporters.
“We’ll have to evaluate how he does today,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman on Saturday, “and then we’ll go from there.”
With Doolittle on the IL, and Matt Grace ineffective (9.53 ERA in his last six outings, with a 6.36 ERA on the year), the Nationals could use another left-hander in the bullpen, but the second-year skipper said he didn’t want to put any pressure on Elías as he works his way back.
“I don’t want to put that kind of thought in his mind,” Martinez explained.
“I just want him to go out there and pitch. We got him when he was pitching really well. Unfortunately he got hurt. The good thing is, it wasn’t his arm. So we get him back and he’s just going to be part of the bullpen.”
A big part considering right now Grace is the only left-hander in the mix and they’re not using him like they have a lot of confidence in what he can do.