WASHINGTON -- The Nationals released Trevor Rosenthal on Sunday morning, ending their months’ long dance since the start of the season to return him to his pre-Tommy John surgery form. Signing Rosenthal was one of the club’s first moves of the offseason, striking a $7 million free-agent deal in November with the intention that he would be their primary setup man in the bullpen for closer Sean Doolittle.
Washington was tantalized by an electric showcase in front of scouts in Southern California from Rosenthal, 29, who did not pitch in 2018, where his fastball velocity remained in the high 90s and touched triple digits. But his 2019 was disastrous from the start. He pitched in 12 games and failed to record an out in five of them. He almost allowed more runs (16) than the numbers of outs he recorded (19).
Nearly all of Rosenthal’s problems were related to his control, which baffled the Nationals even more. His average fastball velocity remained at 98 mph and he surrendered just eight hits in 12 games and didn’t allow a homer. But in his 6 1/3 innings, he issued 15 walks, hit three batters and uncorked five wild pitches. The tipping point came on Saturday night, when Rosenthal took the mound in the seventh inning with an 8-4 lead and proceeded to walk three straight batters, igniting the Braves’ comeback and leading to a 13-9 loss.
“He put the work in, we put the work in, we tried to get him right and just things didn’t work out,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said prior to Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 loss to the Braves at Nationals Park. “So it was time for us to move on.”
Washington will absorb the remainder of Rosenthal’s $7 million salary this season after trying every option it could to get Rosenthal back to form.
After he came down with a viral infection in April, the Nationals placed him on the injured list and sent him to their facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., to go through what was basically a second Spring Training. He worked on his mechanics and went through a throwing program before making 10 Minor League rehab appearances.
Rosenthal’s issues were still prevalent at Double-A Harrisburg, with seven walks, three hit batters and a wild pitch in 9 1/3 innings, but they gave him another chance to pitch in D.C. He was far from perfect, but put together a few respectable outings, including recording a crucial out in the Nationals’ 4-3 victory over the Braves on Friday night. That gave Martinez confidence that, perhaps, Rosenthal was on his way to working his way back to reliability in high-leverage situations. But Saturday’s outing proved he was far from it.
“I was very hopeful that he had turned the corner,” Martinez said. “We’re up four runs, we’re down a couple guys [in the bullpen]. To me, that was his spot. It just didn’t work out.”
The moves that Nationals general manger Mike Rizzo, who declined to comment to reporters on Sunday through a team spokesperson, made this offseason to bolster the bullpen have not worked out so far. Rosenthal was released Sunday; Kyle Barraclough had a 6.39 ERA in 32 games and is currently on the injured list; and Tony Sipp has just started to rebound a bit lately after rushing to make the roster without much of a Spring Training.
They are all major reasons why the Nationals own the highest bullpen ERA in the Majors at 6.32, narrowly ahead of the Orioles, who sit at 29th at 6.31, and a full run worse than the next closest National League team (the Mets at 5.24).
“I said this all along: It takes more than just 5-6 guys, we need 7-8 guys down there to pitch,” Martinez said. “If we’re going to compete every day at this level, they’ve all got to contribute. And we’ve got options. We’re looking at a lot of options in our Minor League system. We’ve got guys that are on our roster, guys that are non-roster, that we’re looking at. I know Riz and everybody’s working diligently to get some guys up here to help if we need it. I think we’ve got the guys down there that can do it.”
Nats option Ross, recall McGowin
Joe Ross was optioned to Triple-A Fresno to make room for McGowin, continuing some puzzling usage for Ross. After a failed experiment to convert Ross into a reliever earlier in the year, the Nats optioned him to the Minors to return to the rotation and continue building up stamina as a starter. But in need of a reliever this weekend, they promoted Ross and had to thrust him into the eighth inning of a one-run game Saturday, and it did not go well -- five hits, four runs in one inning.
On Sunday, Martinez said Ross was returning to the Minors as a starter.
“Yesterday he came in in a moment where he had the bottom of the order,” Martinez said. “Thought it would be good for him. It just didn’t happen. We want him to start. Our fifth starter’s spot right now is still what it is. So he’s going to go down there and continue to get some length and start and see where we’re at.”
Pitch Hit and Run winners
The Nationals held their annual Pitch Hit and Run competition at Nationals Park prior to Sunday afternoon’s game against the Braves, bringing together the top 12 baseball and softball qualifiers from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. for Major League Baseball’s official youth skills competition.
Here are the winners from Sunday’s competition: Zoey Robinson (softball) and Ashton Terry (baseball), both from Virginia in the age 7-8 division; Kelly Womack (softball) and Chase Dinning (baseball) also both from Virginia in the age 9-10 division; Katelyn Hubley (softball) and Dominic Turner (baseball) from Virginia to represent the age 11-12 division; and Kathryn Wilson (softball) from Maryland and Porter Patrick (baseball) from Virginia in the age 13-14 division.
Each winner will have the opportunity to advance to the National Finals during MLB All-Star Week in Cleveland next month.