- - Tuesday, March 13, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Nationals reliever Sammy Solis had never met Brandon Kintzler until last summer when the veteran closer was traded by the Minnesota Twins to Washington.

Solis soon learned that Kintzler is not afraid to share his thoughts about the art of pitching or how to prepare your body to take the mound.

“He is always observing,” said Solis, a 29-year-old lefty who pitched in 30 games last season. “He is always watching. He has a certain way of going about his business. I appreciate his input. He knows what he is talking about. He is an opinionated guy. We love it. He is not afraid to speak his mind.”

Kintzler said he keeps most of his advice to baseball, even during those long games when Nationals relievers are in the bullpen with lots of time before warming up.

The Las Vegas native, who broke into the majors in 2010 with Milwaukee, said dealing with his own trips to the disabled list taught him lessons he likes to share with younger pitchers.

“I have always taken good quotes from (former closers) Trevor Hoffman and Eddie Guardado on how to take care of yourself and how to stay right mentally,” said Kintzler, 33, standing in front of his locker before Tuesday night’s spring training game against the New York Mets. “I think injuries are the best lesson. I have had enough injuries and surgeries to know how the body works and how to take care of yourself. We can be each other’s best pitching coach.”

Kintzler has proven he can be a closer at the major league level, but was willing to return to the Nationals this year even though that won’t be his role.

The 6-foot right-hander, one of the shortest pitchers on the roster, was 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA and 28 saves last season with the Twins. He had 17 saves with the Twins in 2016. But with the Nationals last season, he was used mainly in the seventh inning and was 2-1 with a 3.46 ERA in 27 games with just one save.

Kintzler signed a two-year deal in December with the Nationals, who lost in five games to Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series last October.

“Getting traded was definitely relieving, to come to a known contender,” Kintzler said. “The clubhouse was obviously a great atmosphere to be a part of. It was something I always wanted to be a part of it. Obviously, we didn’t end the way we wanted to so I was driven to come back.”

Kintzler said he had the opportunity to sign elsewhere with a chance to close, but wanted to be part of a contender.

“I felt I was comfortable with my role. They were the most aggressive,” he said of the Nationals’ offer. “It didn’t take long to choose. I wanted to be here. I didn’t really care about (closing). It is not what I am going for at this age. I got a taste of the postseason and I wanted it again. I feel this team is better than last year’s.”

Dave Martinez, the Nationals’ first-year manager, plans to have Kintzler and fellow veteran Ryan Madson pitch late in games, along with lefty closer Sean Doolittle.

A few weeks ago Martinez, looking to lighten the spring-training mood and puncture the notion that the Nationals “can’t get over the hump,” had a bunch of camels brought onto the field.

“That was definitely a surprise,” Kintzler said. “Every day I wonder, ‘What am I going to see now?’ He understands the grind. He is taking really care of us.”

And along the way, Kintzler is happy to give advice. Solis said he is more of a “body coach” than a pitching coach.

Nationals prospect Jaron Long, a right-handed pitcher, is in training camp as a non-roster player. He pitched out of the bullpen in 13 games for Double-A Harrisburg and 14 for Triple-A Syracuse last season.

He was able to meet Kintzler for the first time this spring training and said he will give advice on mechanics as well as training.

“He is very honest with you,” said Long, son of new Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long. “A lot of the young guys try to have (conversations with him) and learn from it. In spring training I want to learn anything I can. He is a true professional.”


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