Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elías were both on the Seattle Mariners’ team bus on the way to play the Texas Rangers in Globe Life Park in Arlington when they learned about they had been traded to the Washington Nationals before Wednesday’s 4:00 PM Trade Deadline.
“I was just surprised,” Strickland said before his first game with the Nats in Phoenix, AZ’s Chse Field, where the Nationals started a three-game set on Friday night.
“It was an exciting surprise to say the least, but I was sitting on the bus waiting to go to the field in Texas and my brother sent me a text and he was like, ‘For real?’ He was like, ‘D.C.?’ And I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ So like I said, I’m getting ready to go to the park, so I start making a couple phone calls, call my agent, and he’s like, “Ahhh, I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ He said I’ll reach out to Seattle’s GM and figure it out, and he called me back to verify. It was a hectic day. Busy. I flew home to Seattle that night, packed up all day yesterday and came here this morning.”
“I mean that day personally was very surprising and kind of shocking for me,” Elías said via interpreter Octavio Martinez.
“I had my family there in Texas with me, and I did not find out about the trade until I got on the bus, so once they let me know I didn’t expect it, it was very unexpected for me, so I was a little shocked, but glad to be here.”
Daniel Hudson, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays, was watching the Jays play the Kansas City Royals when the front office called down to the bullpen.
“I was out in the bullpen, and got a call down,” he explained.
“Luckily I was down that day so I was kind of just watching the baseball game, and I had a feeling that it was going to happen just because of the position that the Blue Jays were in, and they called down in the third inning and said, ‘Hey, we need you to come in.’ And I was just kind of, ‘Hey, see you guys. I’ll see if I can stick around for after the game,’ so luckily I was able to and I was able to say goodbye to everybody.”
All three relievers made their way to Arizona to join Washington in time for the Nats’ three-game set with the Diamondbacks, and as their new manager, Davey Martinez said, he told them to be ready because he planned on throwing them right into the mix.
“Met all three of them,” Martinez said, “talked to them a little bit. They’re excited to be here, we’re excited to have them, so I told them, I said, ‘Hey, you’ll be a big part of the bullpen, so just be ready.’ Those guys all pitched in the back end of the bullpen, which is nice, so I said, ‘You’ll be asked to probably pitch some high-leverage situations, so just be prepared.”
Strickland, who was on the Injured List with a lat strain for most of the season, brings a 2.98 ERA, a 3.44 FIP, 79 walks, 214 Ks, and a .227/.296/.347 line against and 21 saves in his career to the Nationals’ bullpen.
Elías saved 14 games in 16 opportunities with the Mariners, and put up a 4.40 ERA, a 4.67 FIP, 17 walks, and 45 Ks in 47 IP, before the trade, with a .230/.297/.399 line against so far this season.
Hudson, a starter-turned-reliever, has saved 11 games in his career, and he’d put up a 3.00 ERA, a 4.21 FIP, 23 walks, 48 Ks, and a .215/.311/.367 line against in 48 IP for the Jays in his first season in Toronto before the trade.
“These guys are all qualified to pitch the seventh, eighth, and the ninth inning,” GM Mike Rizzo said on Wednesday, when the deals were officially announced.
“They all have saves on their resume, and they’re all stuff guys that can get big outs at big times.”
Strickland is the only one of the three with any real history with the Nationals, and it wasn’t good. He is, of course, the pitcher who gave up some postseason bombs to Bryce Harper back in the NLDS in 2014, then waited two years for an opportunity to throw at the now-former Nats’ outfielder, setting off an on-field brawl in San Francisco’s AT&T Park when he was still with the Giants.
“That’s 100% in the past,” Strickland said on Friday.
“I mean, that is what it is. We learn from things we do and that’s how we stick around in the game. Just keep competing and do your job.”
And the fact that the Nationals’ GM was willing to overlook it as well, and trust in his talent to help the Nats’ bullpen?
“That’s huge,” Strickland said.
“I’m more than happy to be here, and just blessed for this opportunity, so it definitely speaks volumes.”
Elías made his debut for the Nationals on Friday night, retiring two batters on seven pitches, then appearing to injure himself running out a groundout when he was left in to hit, though reports after the game downplayed the severity of the issue.
Strickland tossed a scoreless seventh, striking out two of three batters in a 10-pitch, eight-strike, 1-2-3 frame.