- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2019

When he was called in from the bullpen to face the middle of the San Francisco Giants order on Tuesday, Washington Nationals reliever Trevor Rosenthal noticed something different: He wasn’t as nervous.

The former All-Star, who joined the Nationals in the offseason, had gotten off to rocky start with his new club. In his first four appearances, Rosenthal failed to record an out. His ERA was infinity. That level of futility tends to draw even more scrutiny — just see Baltimore’s Chris Davis and his hitless streak.

Rosenthal admitted he didn’t know what was wrong.

But last week against the Philadelphia Phillies, the 28-year-old finally recorded his first three outs of the season.

Then on Tuesday, he retired another three batters, though the Nationals lost, 7-3.



Rosenthal, who set a franchise record with 48 saves with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015, said getting those first outs in Philadelphia helped.

“I think my last time out, just getting through the inning and kind of getting that monkey (off) my back even though it wasn’t a huge deal, help me to get back to today,” said Rosenthal, whose ERA is still 40.5. “I was surprised just warming up on the mound how normal I felt.”

Rosenthal was far from perfect. He allowed a run, hit Brandon Belt and walked Brandon Crawford. But considering how rusty he looked to start the season, getting out of the inning a second straight time was progress.

The Nationals hope that a settled-in Rosenthal helps stabilize their disastrous bullpen.

“We’re definitely heading in the right direction with him,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He didn’t yank as many pitches as he did before, which is kind of nice. He was throwing downhill, which is kind of nice.”

The Nationals’ biggest problem with the bullpen is the lack of a reliable setup man to get to closer Sean Doolittle. Second-year reliever Wander Suero has shown flashes, but he gave up the game-winning run in the ninth inning of Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Martinez has also used a combination of Justin Miller, Tony Sipp and Rosenthal in his search for a solution.

Of that group, Rosenthal, who could ping 102 mph on the radar gun when he and the Cardinals made their World Series run in 2013, was the most accomplished. But things changed for Rosenthal after elbow surgery in August 2017. He missed all of 2018, and the Nationals took a one-year, $7 million flyer on him in October.

Since joining the Nationals, Rosenthal hasn’t shown an ability to consistently find the strike zone. He’s walked eight batters and hit another two.

Even in Tuesday’s appearance, Rosenthal had to work his way out of a jam. After two men reached base, Rosenthal started to take control. He struck out Evan Longoria and later Gerardo Parra. He gave up a run to Kevin Pillar (RBI single), but escaped the inning by getting Yangervis Solarte to pop out to shortstop Wilmer Difo.

Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki said Rosenthal took positive steps.

“There’s no secret everybody is talking about Rosie,” Suzuki said. “Rosie and the stuff’s there, but he hasn’t been on the mound in a year and a half. But I think the more he gets healthy the more comfortable he will get, he’s going to be great. He works so hard, he has a great attitude, and it’s nice to see him get results for all his hard work.”

During the game, Rosenthal received cheers from the crowd. He said he was thankful for the support. He admitted the situation had gotten “to the point where I wasn’t comfortable.”

That’s gone now, he said.

“Everything feels back to what I remember,” Rosenthal said. “I’m happy the way I’m feeling. I think there’s good things to come.”

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