WASHINGTON — A night after Trevor Rosenthal appeared to be close to fixed — or at least usable — he reverted. Back was the pitch-pulling lost reliever who couldn’t find his command and continues to corner and perplex the Nationals.
Rosenthal retired one batter in a big spot on Friday. He warmed up to enter in the seventh inning Saturday. The Nationals led Atlanta 8-4 at the time, creating a cushion by knocking around Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz for eight earned runs.
When Rosenthal rolled in via a ride from the bullpen cart, the hope was Friday night served as a high step for him. He climbed up, and now pursued others, maybe a full inning of moderate-leverage work. Instead, he immediately looked off.
Rosenthal walked Tyler Flowers on five pitches. Matt Joyce walked on six pitches. Ronald Acuña, Jr. walked on four pitches -- the last of which almost hit him. That was the end for Rosenthal after 15 pitches, just three of which were strikes. Tanner Rainey replaced him, walked in a run, then allowed a double to Freddie Freeman. Tie game, then the Braves took off in a 13-9 win. Rosenthal’s final line: zero innings pitched, zero hits, three earned runs, three walks, a bevy of here-we-go-again.
“[Friday], he seemed a little bit poised but [Saturday] he seemed antsy out there,” Martinez said. “Some of those pitches were close, I didn't see 'em yet, but I'll have to look and see where we're at.”
The question, as always after a Rosenthal appearance this season, is the simple but diabolical, “What’s next?”
Rosenthal’s salary and ceiling have brought him this far into the season. If he could ever morph back into the high-end closer he was in St. Louis, the Nationals would have a key bullpen piece. If he cost less than $7 million, he would have been jettisoned long ago.
He’s done next to nothing to show any consistency will come in this first season following Tommy John surgery. Leaving an incapable Rosenthal in the bullpen only contorts the options for Martinez. Rosenthal can’t be sent to the minor leagues without his consent. Releasing him means eating a sunk cost and trolling for a replacement. The Nationals have been stashing veteran relievers at Triple-A Fresno: Fernando Rodney, Michael Blazek and George Kontos. None are on the 40-man roster. All were available for a reason.
No longer available is former Cleveland closer Cody Allen, who was recently released. He signed with Minnesota on Saturday.
So, the Nationals have to decide — again — a future step for Rosenthal. He contends a small tweak will fix his Saturday issue. Asked if they were back to square one, Martinez said, “I'll have to figure it out tonight and see...” Neither approach has worked this season.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: