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Pedro Severino jolts ex Washington Nationals teammates

A catcher the Nats DFAd in 2019 comes back to hurt them with key hits and a homer...

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals
Pedro Severino terrorized his former Washington Nationals teammates this weekend with four hits, three RBIs and a home run in two games for the Baltimore Orioles.
Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Pedro Severino seems to like to hit home runs at Nationals Park. But he seems to have cut out the bat flips.

The 27-year-old catcher once appeared to have a future with the Washington Nationals, but an inappropriate bat flip helped the Nats change plans for the future of their catching corps and let him go.

The Baltimore Orioles quickly claimed Severino off waivers in 2019, and this weekend, Severino terrorized his old teammates. While ex-Nat Tommy Milone was limiting his old team to three hits over six innings, battery mate Severino was driving in a pair of runs on three hits, including the RBI double that broke the game open in an 11-0 Orioles romp .

The next night, pinch hitting in the eighth inning with the Nats ahead 3-1, Severino hit the second of three Baltimore home runs in the inning, propelling the Orioles to a 5-3 victory.

It wasn’t that long ago that Severino was part of the Nationals’ plans for catcher. Signed as a teenage free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2010, he worked his way through the minors before earning an invitation to 2015 spring training and a spot on the 40-man roster. He made his big-league debut September 20, 2015, as that disastrous Nats season wound to a close.

He appeared in handful of games for the Nats in 2016 before being thrust onto the big stage when All-Star Wilson Ramos suffered a season-ending knee injury in September.

This happened just as the Nationals were playing out a runaway National League East championship in Dusty Baker’s first year as manager.

With veteran backup José Lobatón battling injuries of his own, a rookie Severino started Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers, catching Max Scherzer, driving in a run, and scoring another in a 4-3 Nats’ loss. But that was the only hit he got in four starts as the Nats lost the series in five games.

The next season, Severino failed to win a backup spot to free-agent acquisition Matt Wieters and he was left off the postseason roster.

But in 2018, he was given a legitimate chance to make the team after Weiters unexpectedly signed the Nationals’ free agency qualifying offer, then struggled with injuries. But despite appearing in 63 games by early July, Severino hit just .171 and his defense was a liability.

Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and others on the staff were visibly frustrated with him.

Severino was sent to the minors on July 11, two days after hitting his second home run of the season. It was the bat flip accompanying that home run, a three-run shot off Miami’s Elieser Hernández, that was apparently the last straw for manager Davey Martinez.

“I didn’t like that, no,” Martinez said the next day. “We talked about that too. I’m not a big fan of that. I get these guys that hit a lot of home runs, whatever, but when you have two? The bat flip doesn’t play … and he knows about that now.”

Severino played a few games when the rosters expanded in September, but by that time, he was clearly not in the plans anymore, and the team designated him for assignment during 2019 spring training.

The Orioles claimed Severino almost immediately, and he made the most of the opportunity. He started 30 of the team’s first 60 games, hitting .288 with a .937 OPS and eight home runs, with a three-homer game against Texas. He played only another 30 games after taking a foul ball off the face mask but finished his most extensive major league action at .249/.321/.420 with 13 home runs.

Now Severino has started the season at .316./.409/.605 with three homers through 13 games, and he appears poised for a breakout season as the Orioles’ everyday catcher.