The Washington Nationals might have found something special in former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.
As the Washington Nationals decide whether to sign free agent closer Craig Kimbrel, another right-handed power arm continues to unleash blazing fastballs in the Florida sun: former St. Louis Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal.
Watching Rosenthal work another scoreless inning on Sunday was an eye-opener. Featuring a dominant fastball and a devastating changeup, Rosenthal induced all three Houston Astros hitters – including Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel – to ground out weakly.
There is reason to believe Rosenthal, who topped out at 97 mph Sunday in West Palm Beach, was told to tone it down, velocity-wise, after accidentally throwing 100 mph in his first Spring Training outing since Tommy John surgery.
“I just wanted to kind of ease into it,” Rosenthal told The Washington Post after his Feb. 26 outing. “But I guess it happens.”
If it keeps happening for Rosenthal, the Nationals bullpen could be one of the division’s best. If Kimbrel is thrown into that mix, the back end of the Nats bullpen would be second to none in the National League.
Whether Rosenthal ends up being the setup man for Kimbrel or Sean Doolittle, few teams can call on a reliever of Rosenthal’s pedigree in the 7th or 8th inning.
Before arm troubles culminated with his 2017 surgery, Rosenthal recorded 48 saves in an All-Star 2015 season that also saw him finish 17th in MVP voting. Even Kimbrel’s 2015 numbers paled in comparison.
That was four years ago, but on Sunday and throughout Spring Training, Rosenthal has looked like his old self. The biggest question, of course, is whether the 28-year-old fireballer’s surgically-repaired arm can meet the demands of a full season’s work.
Both general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez have said that keeping Rosenthal healthy is a top priority this season. Martinez, whose handling of the bullpen was publicly criticized by Nationals relievers last year, must resist the urge to overuse Rosenthal, especially in the regular season’s chilly March and April weather.
If Rizzo, Martinez and team trainers succeed in easing Rosenthal back to form, look out. The Washington Nationals may have found a tremendous late-inning weapon.