Tanner Rainey, who has dealt with a variety of injuries this season which have limited him to 32 games and 26 innings pitched in the majors, over which he has a 7.62 ERA, a 6.55 FIP, 21 walks (7.27 BB/9), 31 Ks (10.37 K/9), and a .255.394.490 line against, is now dealing with yet another issue as he’s trying to get things sorted out at Triple-A Rochester.
Wander Suero is currently pitching for the Washington Nationals’ top minor league affiliate as well, after he’d put up a 6.29 ERA, a 5.44 FIP, 11 walks (2.88 BB/9), 34 Ks (8.91 K/9), and a .267/.331/.504 line against in 38 games and 34 1⁄3 IP.
Manager Davey Martinez told reporters recently that the relievers were both getting some time off, Rainey, after injuring his side, and Suero, after struggling on the mound once he was optioned to Triple-A in an attempt to get him back on track after a particularly rough stretch which saw him give up 16 earned runs in 12 games and 12 2⁄3 IP in July and August (11.37 ERA, .315/.387/.704 line against).
Martinez provided another update before Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins in Miami.
“Tanner has some kind of issue with his side,” Martinez told reporters, “but Wander has been pitching. He’s been pitching a lot better, he’s working with [Rochester pitching coach] Mike Tejera down there, and trying to get him to kind of make better pitches.”
And when he says, “make better pitches”?
“Not always throwing the ball down the middle,” Martinez explained. “He’s got a great cutter, but know what he wants to do with the cutter. Working on his offspeed pitches, his changeup, trying to slow his changeup down a little bit. He throws his changeup 88-89 MPH, we’re trying to get it down to about 85-86 MPH, and know how to use his breaking ball, utilize his breaking ball, especially against left-handed hitters, we want to see him throw his curveball a little bit more. He’s working on that stuff, so as soon as we deem that he’s ready, you might see him back here soon, so but he’s working, he’s working hard.”
What boxes do the Nationals want Suero to check before they do bring him back up to the majors, after he returned to Triple-A for the first time since 2018?
“I want him to go out there and feel comfortable throwing all his pitches, one for strikes, working ahead of hitters, knowing what he wants to do with his cutter,” Martinez said.
“If the book on a hitter is to pound him in, being able to throw the cutters on the inner-half of the plate, comfortably, same thing with lefties, throwing his cutters in on the hands, and I want him to get better at that. He’s got such good stuff. A lot of times — I look back and I see a lot of times, he’s 0-2 and the next pitch he throws is right down the middle, you know, that’s a lot of stuff that we talk about and he understands it, but he just happens to throw the ball just that way, and it ends up in the middle and he gets hit as we all saw.
“I just want him to be able to locate his pitches before we bring him back and do it consistently, I mean, that’s the key, to play in the big leagues you’ve got to be consistent, and that’s something that we talk to him about.
“‘There’s days where you look untouchable,’” Martinez said, sharing the discussion he’s had with the reliever, “‘... and there’s days where you look like you’re just out there throwing the baseball and hoping for outs.’ I don’t want him to hope for outs, I want him to understand what he needs to do to get outs.”
As for Rainey, is there a point at which they just shut him down for the year after all of the injury issues he’s dealt with? Does it get too late for him to build back up and come back?
“He wants to get back, I mean, he really does,” Martinez said, reiterating what he’d said in a previous interview about Rainey’s determination to get back up in the majors before things wrap up on 2021. “He wants to finish this season on the mound and not particularly hurt. So we’re trying to get him ready, as soon as he’s able to start throwing again we’ll get him on the mound and try to get him back up here as soon as possible.”
Is there any concern, after he was shut down late last year with right forearm tightness that ended his 2020 campaign in mid-September, then had a muscle strain near his collar bone this past Spring Training, and most recently a stress reaction in his right tibia (we might be missing some), that something in his mechanics is leading to all these issues?
“He’s just had a difficult year with injuries,” Martinez said.
“I think after some point it becomes monotonous for a player, he tries to figure out whether he’s trying too hard or whatever. I don’t want to put any negative thoughts in Rainey’s head.
“I just want him to get better, figure out how we can get him better.
“He doesn’t want to end this year up without being back on the mound and that’s what we’re striving for, to get him healthy, get him back on the mound, getting him pitching again, and if it’s two or three outings that he gets to go out on the mound, at least he has something to build with over the winter so we can get him back for next year.”