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Nationals finally end Trevor Rosenthal journey

Nationals finally end Trevor Rosenthal journey

WASHINGTON — The end came Sunday morning when manager Davey Martinez steeled himself to deliver the news to Trevor Rosenthal. The decision was made the night before, late in the evening Saturday after Rosenthal threw 15 pitches, just three of which were strikes. An internal meeting was followed by a conclusion: The relationship between the Nationals and one of their biggest offseason signings had run its course -- a result which seemed to be pending for weeks. So, after walking in Sunday morning, Rosenthal met with Martinez and learned his time was up.

“Just at this point in time, he put the work in, we put the work in, we tried to get him right and just things didn’t work out,” Martinez said. “So it was time for us to move on and I wish him and his family the best.”

Gone is hope, a headache and a significant investment. Washington won the race to sign Rosenthal in the offseason, paying him $7 million and tacking on a club option for next season following an eye-popping showcase. He arrived in spring training with his velocity intact. His ability to locate never followed, at times handcuffing the manager in game, and later complicating the entire roster.

Yet, he always thought he was close, saying as recently as Saturday night a “small tweak” was the only thing necessary to get right. Rosenthal primarily worked with Senior Advisor, Player Development Spin Williams and pitching coach Paul Menhart when trying to fix his failures. He also had ex- and current teammates offering advice. In his head were a variety of battling thoughts about mechanics, pressure and results. He remained upbeat throughout, so much so it was unclear if he was fully in touch with what was occurring.

Rosenthal's final numbers are abnormal and hard to fathom despite witnessing the process which delivered them: 6 ⅓ innings, eight hits, 15 walks, three hit batters, a damning 22.74 ERA. He’s the second leg of an enormous bullpen construction failure by general manager Mike Rizzo last offseason. His two key acquisitions -- Kyle Barraclough (currently on the IL with a 6.39 ERA) and Rosenthal -- created the greatest drag on what again stood as the league’s worst bullpen coming into Sunday. Rizzo declined through a team spokesperson to speak with reporters on Sunday. That left the duty to Martinez and Rosenthal’s teammates.

Two of the three relievers NBC Sports Washington spoke with Sunday morning did not know Rosenthal had been released. And by look of his locker, there was little evidence a change had been made. Two gloves were on the shelves, a loan baseball sat next to his hat, his game pants hung on a hook. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Zimmerman bobbleheads held their station in the home of someone who was suddenly whisked away without packing. Presumably, Rosenthal will return Monday, when the clubhouse is empty and his former team has boarded a plane for Miami, to collect his belongings.

“My heart goes out to him because you think about how before this season, when he pitched in spring training, he had been away for the game for 16 months recovering from Tommy John surgery,” Doolittle told NBC Sports Washington. “I had some IL stints myself, that whole time you’re working your way back, you’re envisioning all the success you’re going to have when you come back and helping the team win. There’s so much optimism and anticipation surrounding that. When it doesn’t go your way like that... he just could never quite get it going. I know he tried a number of different fixes. He worked really hard, he had a great attitude about things. It’s tough. There’s no...I don’t know. It stinks.”

Doolittle watched film at times with Rosenthal. Other relievers watched with the understanding of how volatile life can be in the bullpen when healthy, let alone when returning from an extended layoff caused by injury. They also thought Sunday morning of what comes after being released. Other elements of life show up.

“You feel for him because you’ve been there,” Javy Guerra, who was released this season by Toronto, told NBC Sports Washington. “I think for the most part, when you step away from the field, you understand there’s real life going on and there’s a lot of people involved in the decisions and everything that happens. I think for the most part, you sit back and assess it. It’s tough. That’s the realistic part of this game. As you get older, there’s more people in play. I think that’s what people don’t really understand as much. You have to move your family now. Turns into more of a production. It’s unfortunate.”

Martinez didn’t sleep much Saturday night knowing his morning duty was to inform Rosenthal of his team-less future. He also knew the Nationals couldn’t continue to push back toward relevancy with a reliever who can’t record an out despite operating with a four-run lead. Massaging a bullpen on a daily basis is often labeled the most difficult part of a manager’s job. Doing it with a setup man who can’t pitch is all the more difficult.

Washington has populated its minor-league system with veteran relievers like Fernando Rodney and George Kontos. None are pitching particularly well, all were available for a reason. Kyle McGowin was recalled Sunday to offer temporary long relief. Another move is likely Tuesday when the team begins a six-game road trip. Rosenthal will not be joining them.

“There’s always going to be a lot of questions, I wish we just had more time for him to stay here and figure it out,” Doolittle said. “It stinks.”

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Sean Doolittle says Nationals players will cover pay cuts scheduled for organization’s minor leaguers

Sean Doolittle says Nationals players will cover pay cuts scheduled for organization’s minor leaguers

Sean Doolittle tweeted late Sunday night that the Nationals’ major-league players will cover a pay cut minor-league players in the organization were going to endure.

The minor-league stipend was being reduced from $400 a week to $300 a week by the organization. Doolittle said the big-leaguers will close the gap.

“After hearing that Nationals minor league players are facing additional pay cuts, the current members of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball club will be coming together and committing funds to make whole the lost wages from their weekly stipends," he tweeted.

“All of us were minor leaguers at one point in our careers and we know how important the weekly stipends are for them and their families during these uncertain times.

“Minor leaguers are an essential part of our organization and they are bearing the heaviest burden of this situation as their season is likely to be cancelled. We recognize and want to stand with them and show our support.”

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The Nationals’ decision to reduce the weekly stipend for minor-league players ran counter to their original assertion that they would not -- as well as to what some other teams in the league are doing. Mike Rizzo, who was a minor-league player and an area scout trying to make ends meet at the start of his career, has a personal understanding of the process. He said on March 20 the Nationals would be protecting the minor-league salaries as agreed upon across the sport.

“In addition, very, very glad to see that Major League Baseball is beginning to take care of minor league players,” Rizzo said then. “That's something that we were certainly prepared to do without MLB's authority, if it came to that. We did want to wait to see what Major League Baseball would do for us to make our move. These minor-league players are not only of great importance to Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals -- these are the next star players for the Nationals; these are the next union members for the MLBPA.”

In the end, the current union members had to step in to make sure the stipends were maintained when a decision seemingly above Rizzo was made.

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MLBPA proposes 114-game season that would start on June 30, according to report

MLBPA proposes 114-game season that would start on June 30, according to report

The Major League Baseball Players Association delivered a proposal to MLB on Sunday to play a 114-game season that would start on June 30, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported on Sunday.

The proposal comes after weeks of a strained back-and-forth between the union and team owners over potential salary cuts and protections for players as the two sides look to negotiate a late start to the 2020 season. Many - including NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas - have pointed to a time crunch to get a plan in place to start the season.

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According to Passan, the latest proposal includes the right to opt out of the season for all players and a deferral of salaries if the 2020 postseason was canceled.

A sticking point in a proposal that leaked last week from the owners suggested that players take a tiered pay cut, which predictably angered players.

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