Voth's new role pays dividends for Nats

May 27th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- Pitch in the starting rotation. Pitch out of the bullpen. Pitch to resume a suspended game. has been tasked with an array of roles in his four years with the Nationals.

This season, he is embracing that of a reliever in attack mode.

“I kind of like the mentality of just going out there and just doing my thing and maxing out and seeing how things go,” Voth said this month.

When the Nationals’ suspended game against the Reds resumed in the bottom of the fourth inning on Thursday afternoon, the right-hander maintained Washington’s lead for a 5-3 win at Nationals Park. Voth delivered two scoreless innings, with a pair of hits and a strikeout off 36 pitches (23 strikes). His fastball reached 95.7 mph, above his season average of 94 mph.

Voth (1-0) earned his first win since Sept. 27, 2020.

“He’s been great,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s accepted his role, and he’s throwing the ball really well. He’s a guy that we can give him the ball in any situation of every moment.”

Voth spent his first two Major League seasons as both a reliever and starter. In 2020, he struggled to find consistency as a full-time member of the starting rotation (2-5, 6,34 ERA over 11 starts). This season, the Nats shifted Voth to the bullpen and gave Joe Ross the nod as the fifth starter. He has been thriving, with a 2.28 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and 24 strikeouts over 23 2/3 innings.

“Goal one for me was just making the team,” Voth said. “If I wasn’t going to be in the rotation, I knew that I was probably going to be the long guy in the ‘pen or have some sort of role. But I’ve kind of come to terms with that and accepted that this is my role now, and I just need to go out there and compete every time I get my name called and that’s my job.”

Voth, 28, has embraced the relief role so much that even though he was tabbed to pitch the opening frames of the resumed game on Thursday, he approached it like a bullpen appearance and not a start. He warmed up with the Nationals relievers and did not go to the field to stretch until 20 minutes before the game.

“That’s how I’ve been throwing recently, so I kind of want to stick to that schedule that I’ve been on,” Voth said.

Voth has been impressing his teammates with the way he’s stepped back into the bullpen. Fellow reliever Daniel Hudson, who also previously was a starter, said the catcher’s mitt “does not move at all” when Voth throws a bullpen session.

“It seems like he’s just got this different mindset of, ‘I’m just going to go out there and attack these guys with my best stuff,’” Hudson said, adding, “It’s a mindset that takes a little while because -- when I was a starter, anyways -- you could work the first time through the lineup with throwing 90% fastballs, and you just can’t do that anymore these days …

“To be able to transition to a bullpen role and be on attack from pitch one is really important, and Austin’s really done a really good job with that.”

With his usually laid-back demeanor, Voth flips a switch on the mound. He said he has more adrenaline pitching out of the bullpen and describes the shorter appearances as “definitely a different beast.”

The Nationals have taken notice.

“Voth’s always been a very quiet guy,” said pitcher Erick Fedde. “But just seeing him out there right now, it’s obvious that he’s exuding confidence. I saw him throw 97 [mph] the other day. I remember seeing that and being like, ‘Dang, he’s bringing it.’

“It’s awesome seeing him be successful.”