Davey Martinez wanted to get Tanner Rainey back on the mound late this season, a year-plus after Tommy John surgery, in part for the veteran, to reward him for the hard work he put in to get back, but also to give some of the Nationals’ bullpen arms a break. He asked a lot of his late-inning arms and by the end of the year they were bushed.
“I’m trying to think of ways to get [Rainey] on the roster,” Martinez explained heading into the final regular season series. “We might have to do that. Some of our bullpen guys are hanging on by a thread here a little bit. We might activate him here in Atlanta, or even tomorrow if we need him. So I want him to stay with us. He’s going to throw a bullpen again today, and then we’ll see where we’re at.”
Asked who, in particular, he was concerned about, the sixth-year skipper mentioned all of his A-pen, back-end relievers.
“I’m looking at [Jordan] Weems right now, who’s pitched an awful lot,” Martinez said. “It could be [Kyle] Finnegan, it could be [Hunter] Harvey. But we’ll see. I’ve been talking to those guys. They want to finish the season.
“They’ve been very adamant about finishing the season. But we’ll see how they feel and we’ll see how much we need them in the next couple days.”
Weems was up to 49 appearances and 53 1⁄3 innings pitched at that point, and he pitched twice in the series with the Braves, finishing the year with a 3.62 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 4.61 BB/9, 9.88 K/9, and a .194/.300/.393 line against in 54 2⁄3 IP.
On the night of (Bullpen Cart Sage) Sean Doolittle's retirement,— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 23, 2023
Jordan Weems is the first home-team reliever to take a ride in 2023. pic.twitter.com/mur62xvW8x
Finnegan pitched twice in Truist Park too, finishing his 2023 season with 28 saves in 36 save opportunities, a 3.76 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 3.12 BB/9, 8.18 K/9, and a .254/.318/.423 line against in 67 games and 69 1⁄3 IP.
Harvey, who spent time on the IL with an elbow strain in July-August, finished up with 57 appearances on the year, with 10 saves, 2.82 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 1.93 BB/9, 9.94 K/9, and a .203/.251/.332 line against in 60 2⁄3 IP, with two outings of his own in the final series.
After he used Harvey and Finnegan in the season finale, Martinez acknowledged he had asked a lot of both this season in his postgame comments.
“They’re on fumes,” Martinez said. “They both pitched some big innings for us. They did really well.
“Finnegan, a career high for him in saves, and he did a great job closing it out there for us.
“Much-needed rest for him this winter, for sure. I joked with Harvey, and said, ‘You’re going to go to winter ball,’ and he started laughing.”
Hunter Harvey's 2Ks in the 8th pic.twitter.com/AESgLs4RVJ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 4, 2023
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, in mid-September, praised the work that Martinez and his staff and the front office did in assembling their late-inning arms over the last years, turning some fringe arms into a pretty serviceable back end of the bullpen.
“We’ve more or less developed the back end of the bullpen really from scratch,” Rizzo said.
“You talk about Finnegan, the way he was obtained,” (signed to a big year deal after seven seasons in the A’s’ system in which he pitched exclusively in the minors), “… and Harvey, the way he was obtained,” (selected off waivers from the Giants, who claimed him after eight injury-plagued seasons in the Orioles’ organization), and then, “... Weems, the way he was obtained,” (after 11 years as a pro, first as a catcher and then as a pitcher).
“Those players were developed here at the big league level by our coaches, so we’re proud of that,” Rizzo said.