Rosenthal gets another shot in bullpen (Nats lead 4-0)

SAN DIEGO - The Nationals could've waited until Monday to make a final decision on Trevor Rosenthal, whether to activate the reliever off the injured list at the end of a 30-day rehab assignment or whether to cut ties with him and eat the $8 million they guaranteed him over the winter.

They decided to go ahead and make the move now, though, activating Rosenthal before tonight's game against the Padres, hoping he can ride a couple of positive outings for Double-A Harrisburg earlier this week straight into the big leagues and become a productive member of their bullpen at last.

"He's been throwing the ball well, had two pretty good outings," manager Davey Martinez said. "And while he's feeling good about himself, we thought it would be good to have him join the team and try to help us win some games."

Rosenthal-Delivers-Gray-Sidebar.jpgRosenthal, of course, was supposed to help the Nationals win a bunch of games when he signed as a free agent in early November, the club's first significant addition of the offseason. Then the 29-year-old, a former All-Star closer with the Cardinals who missed 18 months recovering from Tommy John surgery, opened the season failing to retire any of the first nine batters he faced.

Things kept spiraling downhill from there, with Rosenthal allowing 12 runs on seven hits, nine walks, three hit batters and five wild pitches in only three innings across seven appearances. The Nationals finally decided to place him on the IL with a viral infection, an ailment that cleared up immediately but allowed him to spend 30 days on a rehab assignment with Harrisburg.

That rehab assignment wasn't exactly a smooth ride, either. Rosenthal allowed six runs on nine hits with seven walks and three hit batters in 9 1/3 innings. But he began throwing strikes more consistently, including 26 of his last 37 pitches, and that felt like a turning point.

"I feel like I made a few adjustments," he said. "And just the repetitions and the rhythm that I was able to have has helped me fix a few things. Like I said, just get back on track and hopefully keep it going."

The Nationals admittedly know they have to ease Rosenthal back into the fray. But they also admit they can't avoid using him in significant situations for long.

"We'll definitely have to start off slow and hopefully use him in low-leverage situations and get him back comfortable," Martinez said. "But he threw the ball well his last two outings. Hopefully, he comes up here and he pitches the way he's capable of pitching. He's here for a reason. We saw something in him, and we believe that he can help us."

Rosenthal appreciates the support he received throughout the process, both from within the Nationals organization and from friends throughout baseball who offered an ear or a bit of advice.

"I mean, it's been challenging, you know? No doubt," he said. "But nothing is super easy most of the time. So it was not really something that I foresaw having to go through and work through. But I've enjoyed it, getting to spend time in different parts of this organization, getting to meet a lot of different people. It's really opened my eyes to how great of an organization, how many great people are here. I've had so much support throughout the process."

Update: The Nationals jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead tonight, thanks to (you'll never guess) Howie Kendrick. Yes, the veteran professional hitter did it again, lining a two-out RBI single to left to put his team on the board. Kendrick now has 38 RBIs in only 167 plate appearances. He's also batting .400 with runners in scoring position. Yes, .400. Max Scherzer has posted three zeros to begin his evening, but only the first inning was clean. The Padres loaded the bases in the second and had a runner on in the third, but Scherzer got out of it. He's at 48 pitches. And now the Nats have given their ace some extra cushion. Brian Dozier blasted a two-run homer into the second deck in the top of the fourth. It's Dozier's 1,000th career hit, and it extends his recent hot streak while extending the Nationals' lead to 3-0.

Update II: Make it 4-0 Nats thanks to (who else?) Anthony Rendon, who lined a single to center to score Trea Turner in the top of the fifth, his 41st RBI of the sason. Scherzer, meanwhile, keeps cruising along. He's through five scoreless innings on 76 pitches.

Scherzer carries Nats to no-nonsense win (updated)
Nationals reinstate Trevor Rosenthal

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