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Kyle Finnegan fix; expanded role for Paolo Espino - Washington Nationals’ bullpen talk

Davey Martinez talked about a potential mechanical fix for Kyle Finnegan; & the role Paolo Espino is excelling in this season...

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Finnegan’s Sinker’s Spin Rate Sinks:

Kyle Finnegan’s spin rate on his sinker was down noticeably (as confirmed when they got a look at the data) in his outing in Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over Colorado’s Rockies in the nation’s capital.

BaseballSavant.com had the spin rate on his sinker, which Finnegan threw for 20 of 23 pitches (87%), at 1841 (average), down from a 2057 AVG (-216.0) on the season. His spin rate on the two sliders he threw was down too, but it was the sinkers which got the Nationals’ attention after the right-hander gave up a leadoff double and three singles before he was lifted, having given up two runs, with two still on Tanner Rainey stranded on his way to a 5-out save.

“The way I saw Finn, and the frustration after the little ground ball [for the final hit], I thought it was time,” manager Davey Martinez said of his decision to go to Rainey and pull Finnegan when he did.

“Because he was frustrated. And he made a good pitch. Like I said, it was just a ground ball in the infield, but Rainey was the man today. He really was.

“He took ownership of the last outs and pounded the strike zone and was awesome.”

Looking back at Finnegan’s outing, the fifth-year skipper said, they saw things they think he can fix before his next outing, after giving up seven hits and three earned runs in 1 13 IP in his previous two outings.

“We talked a little bit,” Martinez said. “We noticed that his legs were a little bit wider on his set-up, so we talked to him about it. He was going to come in today, we’re going to look at some numbers — spin rate was down because of it, which I kind of figured, and we’re going to correct it and I’m going to see how he does today. I don’t know where he’s at right now, but I’ll talk to him and see how it went. He’s going to throw a little touch-y, feel-y bullpen, and I’ll talk to him after that.”

Espino In Higher Leverage Spots?:

Paolo Espino’s three scoreless innings on the mound Monday in Citi Field (against a Mets’ lineup which put up 13 runs on 16 hits) stood out on a night when others got knocked around by the home team’s hitters.

The extended outing left the Nationals’ 35-year-old right-hander with a 2.28 ERA, a 3.39 FIP, four walks, 16 Ks, and a solid .250/.281/.348 line against in 17 games and 23 23 IP out of the bullpen in the first two months of the season.

“He’s just — we talk about how smart he is on the mound, and effective, and throwing all his pitches, he’s always around the zone, so he did well tonight,” manager Davey Martinez said after his club’s loss in the series opener in Citi Field.

MLB: MAY 06 Nationals at Angels Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Given the success he’s had, has the skipper considered using Espino in higher-leverage spots rather than in long relief in blowouts or with big leads?

“We’ll see how he goes,” Martinez said. “What I love about him is I can count on him to come in and like I said, pound the strike zone, get the outs that we need, like Erasmo [Ramìrez] the same way, he’s done well in similar roles, but both of those guys, I really can count on a lot, so as the time comes he may be a guy if we’re up 3-4 runs that we can run him out there for 2-3 innings, so we’ll see.”

From Espino’s perspective, he said he approaches every outing the same regardless of the game situation.

“In my head, it’s always a tie game, or a close game,” he explained, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman late Monday night. “I don’t let the score determine how I’m going to go out there. Today, they were ahead by a lot, but I still went out there to pitch my game, to pitch like it was a tie game. That’s the way I go out there every outing.”

Martinez talked before the second of three with the Mets in Citi Field about the value of a pitcher like Espino.

“We always talk about him, but he’s a life-saver, he really is,” the manager said.

“He understands his role really well, and he knows he’s out there to get outs and he does it well, knowing that he can pitch one inning, two innings, three innings, and feel good about it. It always helps — will help any manager in a pinch. So between him, Erasmo [Ramírez], who’s done the same thing, and even [Carl Edwards, Jr.] who always comes in and he never wants to come out of the game. He comes in and says, ‘I’m good to go another inning, I’m good to go another inning,’ and after a certain point I said, ‘Hey, we’ll see how good you are tomorrow, so good job.’

“Having those guys that want to be out there and want to pitch, and do it well, is awesome.”