The Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in the 2015 World Series with a strong bullpen that included Ryan Madson, who joined the Nationals in a trade last July.
Now the Nationals have another member of that championship bullpen, as two-time All-Star Kelvin Herrera was traded to the Nationals on Monday for three minor league prospects.
Herrera, who had been with the Royals since 2011, did not allow an earned run in three games against the Mets in 2015. Now the Dominican native will be teammates with Madson and fellow reliever Tim Collins, who pitched for the Royals from 2011-14.
“There were great teammates of mine in Kansas City,” Herrera said before Tuesday’s game at Nationals Park, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “It is like going into a new neighborhood” with some familiar faces.
Herrera pitched in 72 games with no saves for that 2015 Kansas City team, then had 12 saves in 2016. Last year he was 3-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 64 games with 26 saves, and had 14 saves in 27 games with an ERA of 1.05 this season when he was traded.
The right-hander realizes he could be used in a setup role with the Nationals, as lefty Sean Doolittle has been the closer this year and has 18 saves in 19 tries with an ERA of 1.47.
“I am going to be prepared to pitch whatever the situation,” Herrera said. “I just focus on getting that hitter out,” no matter what inning he throws.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez met with Herrera before the Nationals hosted the Orioles on Tuesday.
“He’s pretty upbeat. He’s excited to be here. I explained the situation,” Martinez said of Doolittle as the primary closer. “I had a conversation with him today. It was a pretty good conversation. I value communication a lot.”
Martinez said he told Herrera, 28, to let him know if he was being used too much or not enough out of the bullpen.
“My door is always open. Feel free to tell me,” Martinez said.
Herrera said he was surprised to be traded.
“I thought it might happen a little later” near the July 31 trade deadline, he said. “It is absolute great to feel you can help a team win. I am looking forward to it.”
The Nationals added Herrera to the 25-man roster and also activated right-hander Jefry Rodriguez from Double-A Harrisburg to start Tuesday against the Orioles, who lost all three games to the Nationals last month in Baltimore.
Washington sent reliever Wander Suero, who pitched in two games Monday, to Triple-A Syracuse and first baseman/left fielder Matt Adams went on the 10-day disabled list with a fractured left index finger that injured last weekend in Toronto.
It was to be the first big league start for Rodriguez, who made his debut at Atlanta on June 3 as he came on out of the bullpen for injured starter Jeremy Hellickson. In that game Rodriguez allowed no runs and four hits in 4.2 innings.
Rodriguez last pitched on Thursday and did not allow an earned run for the Harrisburg (PA) Senators, and minor league pitching coordinator Paul Menhart feels the 24-year-old Dominican learned from his first big league stint.
“He filled a void, a nice void in that game in Atlanta,” Menhart told The Washington Times before Rodriguez took the mound Tuesday. “I think what he gained was … confidence and belief that he belonged (in the majors) and could do it. It carried over when he went to Harrisburg and continued to pitch with very good confidence. He really didn’t miss a beat. He has earned it.”
In other pitching news Martinez said right-hander Stephen Strasburg (6-6, 3.46), a past All-Star, is making progress after he went on the disabled list June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. There is no timetable for his return. “He is progressing well,” Martinez said.
The Nationals began a three-game series at home Tuesday with the Orioles.
Washington began the game 38-32 and 3.5 games back of the first-place Braves. The Orioles, who had lost nine of the last 10, were 20-50 and had the worst record in the major leagues.
The series continues Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. with Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (6-3, 3.01) facing Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.98). Nationals ace Max Scherzer (10-3, 2.06), who leads the National League in wins, will face Orioles righty Kevin Gausman (3-6, 4.48) on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.