WASHINGTON -- Fernando Rodney told manager Dave Martinez that he doesn’t like taking too many days off in between outings. One day after his longest outing of the season, an ill-advised 32-pitch appearance over an inning-plus in Atlanta this past weekend, Rodney was back out in the outfield the next day playing catch.
That’s why with Sean Doolittle unavailable Martinez had confidence to go to Rodney to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning Thursday evening against the Rockies, despite the fact that Rodney had pitched in both games of a split-doubleheader the day prior. But Rodney could not hold the lead in an eventual 8-7 Nationals loss to the Rockies at Nationals Park.
Rodney started the ninth by giving up a leadoff solo homer to Ian Desmond to tie the game and then the Rockies went ahead after Daniel Murphy beat out a near double play on a ground ball hit too slowly through the infield.
“I pitched the same,” Rodney said. “I think my velocity is there. It was one pitch, I don't know how he hit it down there, but that's baseball.”
“I’ve known Fernando for a long time,” Martinez said. “He was throwing 94-95 mph. If he starts throwing 89-90, I get worried. Today he gave up a slider home run, but he got what could have been a double play ball, wasn't hit hard enough by Murph. So, like I said I'm very proud of Fernando, I am.”
Martinez’s options were limited after his bullpen had been taxed the past few days, picking up the slack in Wednesday’s doubleheader and after Max Scherzer completed just five innings in his return from the injured list, matching his shortest start of the season. But that the 42-year old Rodney making his third appearance in two days was considered Martinez’s best option without Doolittle underscored just how much of a pressing issue the Nationals bullpen remains with the July 31 Trade Deadline just six days away.
“I talk to [general manager Mike Rizzo] everyday about a lot of different things, about different players,” Martinez said. “Riz is out there everyday. He’s on the phone, he’s looking at all kinds of stuff. I worry about the 25 guys we’ve got. I’m really happy with the guys that we have. They’re doing well. We’re playing well, so my focus is on our team right now. If Riz thinks that he can add a piece here or a piece there to help us so be it, but right now my focus is just on the 25-guys that we’ve got.”
And this month, the Nats bullpen has been much better. Entering Thursday, Nats relievers owned a 3.60 ERA during the month of July, which was the second best in the National League, trailing only the Dodgers. And yet, Washington’s bullpen still owns the worst ERA in the NL and outside of Doolittle are short on consistent reliable options in high leverage situations late in games. Fixing the bullpen will be the Nationals top priority in the next six days, trying to find someone to help solve what has been their Achilles' heel all season long.
“All those guys that came in and pitched today valiantly,” Martinez said. “These guys have been doing an incredible job in the bullpen, so I'm proud of all those guys. Just couldn't finish it today.”