ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Nationals reinstated right-hander Brandon Kintzler from the 10-day disabled list this afternoon and optioned-hander Jefry Rodriguez to Triple-A Syracuse. Kintzler had been on the DL since June 10 with a right forearm flexor strain and pitched an inning in a minor league rehabilitation assignment for Single-A Potomac on Sunday.
“Yeah, he’s ready to go,” said manager Davey Martinez. “He did well. But the biggest thing is the arm felt good. So we get him back today.”
“I feel very rejuvenated,” Kintzler said. “I feel refreshed. Ready to help the team get going. Hopefully, to fill the gap to get to (Sean) Doolittle.”
Kintzler pitched one inning of scoreless relief Sunday at Potomac, saying he came out of the outing healthy and ready to return.
“It was really hot yesterday but I feel like I survived it,” Kintzler said. “I didn’t get fatigued at all. I think it was important to get back out there after that bullpen session. I felt good. I feel good today.”
Kintzler said have 15 days off in the middle of the season is actually something that he recommends for pitchers. Now he can come back revitalized for what he likened to a stretch run, even though it’s still late June.
“Oh, it’s huge. I really wish you would get a chance to do it,” Kintzler said. “I think it’s such a long season and every day it’s a grind just to be ready for your one inning. The chance to get a couple of weeks to get away and rebuild your body and rejuvenate yourself, I think, can go a long ways for your legs and really for your arm.”
So now with Kintzler returning and the acquisition of Kelvin Herrera, does this mean that the responsibilities in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings will be altered? Or are they now defined?
“In a perfect world, that would be the case,” said Martinez of defined roles. “But because things change throughout the game, I am going to use those guys and match them up the way we see fit.”
Speaking with Kintzler pregame, it sounded like he prefers to be the seventh- or eighth-inning guy. He arrived from the Twins last season as their closer. His role became the seventh-inning guy in D.C. because of the presence of Sean Doolittle.
“I think we could prolong the six, seven, eighth and ninth inning and not that you match up as much, just let everyone do their own inning, I think would be beneficial for all of us,” Kintzler said. “And if we know all our roles I think that would go a really long ways and have a really strong bullpen.”
So with that, it sounds like it will be interesting to see how this plays out between Martinez, with all the toys he has to play with in the bullpen, versus what the relievers believe their role is and how defined that role will be in the course of a game.
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson is with the club at Tropicana Field, as well. Martinez confirmed that Hellickson is on track to return for the next available start in Rodriguez’s spot, which would be June 30 at Philadelphia. Hellickson has been on the DL with a hamstring issue.
“Yeah, definitely,” Martinez said. “I know he’s going to throw a bullpen here in between. We definitely think he’s ready to go.”
Hellickson got rocked at Potomac on Sunday, allowing 11 runs on nine hits over four innings. But he said he got what he needed out of the rehab start.
“Physically, I felt fine,” Hellickson said. “Obviously, it’s not the way I wanted it to go. Felt my stuff was pretty good. Just command was a little shaky. Hammy felt 100 percent. I got to (83) pitches, came out feeling good. I feel 100 percent. Really haven’t had a problem off the mound since I got on the mound a week and a half after (the injury). Really haven’t had any problems. Just getting back into game situations. I feel ready to go.”
Infielder Daniel Murphy is not in the lineup tonight, but Martinez said the veteran hitter is just getting a day off. With Murphy coming back from microfracture surgery in his knee, Martinez wanted to rest him after a weekend of work.
“I want to keep him kind of on a schedule,” Martinez said. “He’s played three days and yesterday was a pretty long game for him. Had three hits, ran the bases, went first to third. Coming on the turf today, I just kind of want to give him a little break.
“You see what he did for us yesterday. That’s the Murphy that I’ve see for years. Guy is a professional hitter and to throw him in the middle of our lineup, it just creates more length in our lineup, which is really nice.”