La Sorsa embracing nomadic life between MLB, Triple-A

Joe La Sorsa’s relief appearance Sunday wasn’t particularly memorable. It didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game (a 7-3 loss by the Nationals against the Dodgers). It included no defining moment, no critical out recorded and no damaging hit surrendered.

But when it came time to dissect what happened on another long, rain-delayed day at the ballpark, Davey Martinez went out of his way to mention the rookie left-hander’s seemingly innocuous relief appearance.

“I give a lot of credit to Joe,” the Nationals manager said. “That was awesome. It saved our bullpen, big-time.”

Having used up pretty much every other reliever on his roster the previous two nights, Martinez’s options for Sunday’s game were thin. And when starter Trevor Williams lasted only 4 1/3 innings, the situation looked all the more dire.

Martinez went to Mason Thompson first, the right-hander facing two batters in the fifth before the game went into a 58-minute delay, then returning after that to finish the inning and return to face two batters to open the sixth. Next up was La Sorsa, who entered with a runner in scoring position but stranded him there with three quick outs.

Then La Sorsa came back out to pitch the seventh. Then the eighth. Then the ninth, though he ultimately fell one out shy of finishing the game altogether.

No matter. The Nats were thrilled with his 3 2/3 scoreless innings on 51 pitches, a performance that allowed Martinez to save other bullpen arms for tonight in Pittsburgh and allowed La Sorsa to feel a sense of pride in what he accomplished, even if it really had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.

“I was obviously happy with what I was able to save, because I know we have a lot of games coming up,” he said. “I know we don’t have a lot of off-days. I know we have a lot of games on the road. So for me, it was just really important to go out there and do the job and save the innings for the rest of the bullpen.”

It’s been a tumultuous summer for La Sorsa, with far more travel than anyone should ever want to experience. He made his major league debut May 29 for the Rays, then 10 days later was claimed off waivers by the Nationals, who assigned him to Triple-A Rochester.

La Sorsa has seen been recalled from Triple-A four times, optioned back down three times. He was called up Aug. 31, sent down Sept. 5, then called back up Sept. 9 after MacKenzie Gore went on the 15-day injured list.

Through it all, the 25-year-old has tried to keep a level head.

“It’s part of the job description,” he said. “You can either put up or shut up with it. Because if you’re going to make it in this game, especially someone in my position, you really just have to look past that, take a stoic approach, internalize everything, don’t complain about it. Because they’re giving me an opportunity up here.

“Yes, you obviously have to make the most of it, but you definitely don’t want to be that rookie whining and complaining about it. You really just have to put your head down and earn it. Everything in this game, you’ve got to earn.”

La Sorsa’s big league numbers with the Nats (5.27 ERA, 1.208 WHIP) aren’t dazzling. But he’s been available anytime they’ve needed him, and he has impressed Martinez with his ability to throw strikes and implement what coaches have asked him to work on each time he’s been sent back to Triple-A.

“Having options, sometimes it’s brutal,” Martinez said. “But it’s part of it. I think he understands. I talk to him every time we do it, and he asks me what he needs to do to get better. … Every time he comes up here, he’s done a little bit better. Which is great to see.”

It’s been a nomadic journey for several months now. In his ideal world, La Sorsa would be in the major leagues for good and not have to worry about. But he knows he’s not there yet, so he’s perfectly willing to serve as this year’s “up-and-down” guy.

Even if he sometimes can’t remember where he is on a particular day.

“I wake up in the middle of the night thinking I’m in a different place, to be honest with you,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s all part of the process. I’m being given a really good opportunity here, so I just want to keep on rolling with it.”

Nationals announce multi-year extension with Rizzo...
Another rain delay, another loss for Nats (updated...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to