DENVER — Tom Gorzelanny threw 2 1/3 innings Saturday night.
That’s a statement that would have been met with disgust and disappointment a few weeks ago but the key here is that those 2 1/3 innings came in relief — and they were relatively successful. In a 15-7 blowout loss to the Rockies, Gorzelanny allowed just one earned run and was one of the Nationals lone pitching bright spots.
With the Nationals rotation in something of a state of flux between trades, guys who’ve been recently activated and the progression toward opportunities for young pitchers at the major league level, Gorzelanny has found himself the odd man out and the right man for a long relief job in the bullpen. It’s not where he wants to be, make no mistake. But, right now, it’s where he’s thriving most.
When asked if he’s starting to like the long relief role, Gorzelanny was honest. “No,” he said.
“You know what I prefer. I’d rather be starting. But, whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do it. If they need me to do long, short, start, I’ll go out there and try to do the best I can.”
This was Gorzelanny’s third relief appearance of the season. The first one didn’t go well. The last two have been better. Adjusting to the new role, though, is the key.
“As I get used to it, (my warmup) will get shorter,” he said. “In the beginning it took me a little while, today it took me maybe 15 to 20 throws to do it. Once I get used it, it’ll be a little bit better.
“I just want to go out there and do my job, no matter what the role is, and just try to get better each day.”
Starting wasn’t working, at least recently, for Gorzelanny who opened the All-Star break by leaving his start early due to a sprained ankle from a collision at home plate when he was running the bases. His next start didn’t go well, either, exiting after three innings and with five earned runs to his name.
Relieving, though, has been giving him improved results and Saturday was the second example of that.
The other highlight for Gorzelanny on Saturday came when he helped spark a four-run rally in the sixth inning for the Nationals with a base hit to center field on the first pitch he saw. Gorzelanny, who pitches, writes and plays tennis left-handed — but golfs and plays hockey right-handed — turned himself around to hit right-handed for the at-bat.
With just one hit all season — and all 30 of his previous plate appearances coming left-handed — Gorzelanny simply said “screw it.”
The strategy worked.
“I was just trying to make contact there and found a hole,” he said. “It’s big of the guys behind me to get some big hits. I try to do the best that I can. I had to switch sides to execute.”