Herrera arrives in DC, debuts in perfect 8th
Righty retires the side on 6 pitches in Nats win
WASHINGTON -- Kelvin Herrera answered questions about his Nationals debut via a translator at his locker in the team's clubhouse after Washington's 9-7 win over the Orioles on Tuesday. But when a reporter asked Herrera if the past 24 hours have been crazy, the right-hander was quick to respond himself, in English.
"Yeah," Herrera said. "Crazy."
The Royals traded Herrera to the Nationals on Monday night, and Herrera arrived in Washington around 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. About six hours later, he made his Nationals debut. Herrera received an ovation when he entered in the eighth inning and retired the side with six pitches.
"It's funny, you see 95 on the Jumbotron, but it looks like 104," Adam Eaton said. "I'm not kidding. I don't know what the gurus upstairs say about his spin effect or whatever, but I'm telling you it looks like 104 coming out of a cannon. I'm so happy he's here and he's on my team and I don't have to face him anytime in the near future."
Herrera played all eight of his Major League seasons with the Royals before this week, so Martinez is now focused on making Herrera feel like a part of the Nationals' family. When Herrera arrived in Washington, Martinez sat down with him to discuss the right-hander's role as a late-inning reliever.
"He actually looked at me and said, 'Wow, that was a pretty good conversation,'" Martinez said.
Martinez ensured Herrera they'd chat often, knowing that if the newly acquired reliever is happy and playing well, the Nationals will also thrive.
"I get it with him. He's been there a long time," Martinez said. "I even told him, 'The color red looks good on you. I know you're used to blue.' His winter ball team, I think, was red. I told him, 'Just think of it as you're playing on your winter ball team. You've got a different color on, and let's move forward.'"
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals reached out to the Royals about a month ago regarding Herrera, and those talks progressed more over the past week.
The non-waiver Trade Deadline isn't until July 31, but Rizzo said teams wait until that date to make a trade so they can identify their needs. Rizzo has known since the beginning of the season Washington has needed to add bullpen depth, since the Nationals have heavily relied on Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler.
Doolittle, Madson, Kintzler and Herrera form a strong back end of the bullpen, which the Nationals hope will shorten postseason games and lead to winning their first playoff series. Doolittle, Madson and Herrera have extensive postseason experience.
Washington sits 3 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
Herrera, who will be paid the remainder of his $7.9 million salary by Washington, knew he might be traded to a contender, but the 28-year-old was surprised he was traded this early in the season. The Nationals parted ways with infielder Kelvin Gutierrez and outfielder Blake Perkins, whom MLB Pipeline ranked the team's No. 10 and 11 prospects, respectively, as well as 17-year-old right-hander Yohanse Morel, to acquire Herrera.
Herrera closed for the Royals, but the Nationals will continue using Doolittle in that role. Doolittle has notched a 1.71 ERA with 19 saves in 20 chances this season. Herrera said he's happy pitching any inning.
"The one thing I have seen about this team, these past few years, is they're always in the battle, in the fight for the playoffs, which is great chemistry here," Herrera said through a translator during his introductory news conference at Nationals Park on Tuesday. "I'm just ready to join the team and help any way I can."
Herrera played a key role in the Royals' 2015 World Series and recorded a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves, 22 strikeouts and two walks in 27 games with Kansas City this season.
The Nationals also bolstered their bullpen before the Trade Deadline last season, adding Doolittle, Kintzler and Madson to improve what was then one of baseball's worst bullpens. Washington has the league's 10th-best bullpen ERA this season.
"We never rule out doing more," Rizzo said. "We feel that [when] healthy, we've got as good a team as anybody in the league and will compete with anybody. But factors go into this thing and injuries are a part of this thing. You have to be flexible enough to roll with the punches and do what you need to do on the fly to put the best team you can at the end of the season."