Nationals reliever Trevor Rosenthal battled through the eighth inning Tuesday night of the club’s 7-3 loss to the Giants. Although he did allow a run in the frame, he recorded three outs and that’s a big deal considering where he had been less than a week ago.
In the eighth, Rosenthal hit the Giants’ Brandon Belt in the leg with a pitch and then walked Brandon Crawford.
But he caught Evan Longoria looking for the first out on three pitches. The last two pitches of the at-bat were 99 mph four-seam fastballs.
Kevin Pillar delivered a bloop RBI single to make it 7-3 San Francisco.
But then Rosenthal got Gerardo Parra with a swinging strike three and got Yangervis Solarte to pop up to shortstop to end the inning.
“Yeah, I feel a lot more normal today as far as my emotions and my nerves,” Rosenthal said. “Everything feels back to what I remember. I’m happy the way I’m feeling. I think there’s good things to come.”
Rosenthal believes his difficult start with a new team centers around a mental block of desperately trying to succeed and prove that he can still pitch after returning from Tommy John surgery 16 months ago. He admitted the pressure had affected him with each successive appearance without recording outs.
“Really, I think the whole time I felt that I had a lot of emotion, especially the first time out there and with the way things were going it just kind of kept building, mounting against me,” Rosenthal said. “But the guys here, the staff have worked with me and trying to work on the couple of things. More or less just get some reps and build some confidence. I feel like things are going well with that.”
Manager Davey Martinez hopes that getting Rosenthal some confidence with positive outings might get them back to where they could start relying on him in higher leverage situations.
“I feel like the more he gets out, the more he relaxes,” Martinez said. “He did admit to me that he went out there and he was a bit nervous today. Just because he wanted to go out there and get that first out. Once he settled down, he had some action on his fastball. He threw a good changeup, a good slider.
“We’re definitely heading in the right direction with him. 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. It was definitely a positive day for Rosenthal, and we’ll take it from there.”
Rosenthal had not pitched since April 10 when he walked three batters against Philadelphia. He struck out one in that appearance but did record three outs. The former closer admitted that Tuesday’s outing was the first time with the Nats he felt comfortable after the inning.
“Really just today. 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,” Rosenthal said. “I was surprised just warming up on the mound how normal I felt. It kind of made me realize how much emotion I had attached to the previous times. Yeah, I think that’s what it was.”
His catcher Kurt Suzuki said Rosenthal has been bringing the heat. But like the fans, he knew he wasn’t finding the strike zone. Tuesday, for the most part, he did.
“I mean, he’s throwing the ball well. He punched out two guys, I think, and gave up a broken-bat bleeder that scored a run,” Suzuki said. “But shoot, positive steps, there’s no secret everybody is talking about Rosie, 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.”
Rosenthal admitted that he nerves of this situation were really what he believes were causing his issues prior to Tuesday and not something outright mechanical.
“I think excited was the primary thing and then the experiences I was having everything just kind of kept mounting against me,” Rosenthal concluded. “I felt like it was just building to a point where I just wasn’t comfortable. But I knew just with my experience that it was going to come and I was going to get through it. I just had to continue to go out there and have the staff have faith in me that I would come around.”
He also believes that the Nationals not making a big deal of his issues or coming down on him too hard has helped him to figure out the issue and not panic.
“The support has been amazing,” Rosenthal said. “I haven’t heard really one bad thing from fans or obviously from the guys in the clubhouse, but even our front office and manager. Everybody has really embraced me. That’s kind of the message they sent to me in spring training that once you’re in this family you’re in it for life. Now getting to go through this and experience that I believe that I am part of the family more than ever, for sure.”