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Washington Nationals give Sean Nolin another shot six years after last start in majors

Sean Nolin worked his way back and a struggling team in desperate need of pitching gave him another shot in the majors...

Washington Nationals v New York Mets: Game One Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Before Sean Nolin’s first major league outing since 2015, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez talked to reporters about what he wanted to see from the 31-year-old lefty, who earned his call-up with a strong showing at Triple-A Rochester in the club’s system, after pitching in Japan in 2020 and signing a minor league deal with the Nats this past winter.

“He’s worked hard to get back up to the big leagues, now he gets another opportunity, so good for him,” Martinez said.

“He was in Japan, and pitched well in Japan before we got him, so I’m looking forward to watching him go out there and compete, and pitch the way he’s been pitching.”

“He’s kept Rochester in a lot of games and has done well with them, so hopefully he can do that today.”

His message to the Seaford, NY-born southpaw going into the outing in Flushing, Queens, New York’s Citi Field?

“I just want — he’s from the NY area, Long Island, so I know he’s got family here and stuff, so just go out there and continue to do what he was doing down in Rochester,” Martinez said.

“I know he’s a strike thrower, he’s got a mix of four pitches, so just go out there and compete.”

Nolin went three-plus innings on 51 pitches against the Mets, giving up eight hits and four earned runs, three of them on a three-run blast by Brandon Nimmo in the second, with the fourth scoring after after he’d left the mound with a runner on in the fourth.

Overall on the day, the lefty threw 57% four-seam fastballs, averaging 90 MPH and getting up to 93. He mixed in a cutter (18%, 84 MPH AVG), curveball (10%, 75 MPH), and changeup (10%, 80 MPH), with Baseball Savant listing a slider as well (6%).

“I would say the fastball was definitely the best today,” Nolin said after the outing.

“Fastball/cutter. I was mixing changeup as well. Not too many curveballs, it wasn’t — didn’t seem like the right pitch today, but I definitely mix all four pretty well throughout my starts.”

Nolin also knew exactly how long it had been since his last major league outing when asked about making it back.

“Big league-wise it was almost six years,” he said. “I think the end of September of ‘15 was my last start. I definitely wasn’t as nervous this time, I feel like I had a lot of positive, good energy.”

“Just excitement to be honest,” he said of his overall emotions getting back to the majors.

“I wasn’t nervous like what could happen and stuff.

“My family and friends were at the game yesterday because I knew I was probably going to pitch at some point.

“But yeah, it was definitely all positive and good energy, so I was definitely happy with it.”

“I thought he threw the ball fine,” Martinez said after the 4-1 loss. “He talked a lot about his cutter not being as effective, it didn’t have that bite that he typically has, but I thought he held his own and he did well.”

The manager said he also liked the way Nolin mixed things up with his delivery, with a bit of variety in the way he deliver the ball including a pause in his leg kick, and even a Luis Tiant or Johnny Cueto-esque back to the batter variant that he brought out to try to keep hitters off-balance and mess with their timing.

“I thought it was good,” Martinez said. “He quick-stepped a guy, he went Luis Tiant, he did a hesitation, but he mixed it up and I thought it was good. But that’s the way he pitches. When I watched him on video I knew that, I was just waiting for him to see when he was going to break one out and he did it. But like I said, he made some really good pitches, he left a couple cutters — which he said it didn’t have that depth that it usually has, but he attacks the strike zone as well, he threw strikes, so it was good to see.”