The Washington Nationals have mixed and matched relief pitchers all season. Through five appearances, Fernando Rodney looks like one that will stick.
Since joining the Nationals, Rodney has thrown 4.2 innings without allowing a run. He’s allowed four hits, one walk, and retired six batters via strikeout. In place of Sean Doolittle, Rodney has fired his famous arrow twice, proving, so far, he can be a back-up closer when Doolittle gets overworked.
Rodney, the oldest active player in Major League Baseball, has plenty of experience in the role. His career 327 saves ranks 17th highest on the all-time saves list. The only other active player with more saves is Craig Kimbrel (334).
Despite Rodney getting up there in years, his fastball is as lively as ever. His fastball, which he throws approximately 80% of the time with his new ballclub, is averaging 94.8 miles per hour with the Nationals, topping out at 95.5. His career average fastball velocity is 96.5.
What’s remarkable about Rodney’s success is that he jumped right into high leverage situations and has thrived. The same cannot be said for one dozen other pitches that will not be named. (You know the pitchers I’m talking about. Let’s just focus on the ones that pitch well for once).
Because of Rodney’s success, it is allowing Martinez to rest Doolittle. Every fan knows how poorly he is managing Doolittle’s workload (and my Site Co-Expert Matt Holleran wrote a whole article on this last week).
Doolittle’s injury history includes a rotator cuff tear in 2015, which caused him to miss the entire season. In 2016, he dealt with labrum inflammation, and in 2017 was kept off the field with an interior shoulder strain.
The Nats must keep him healthy if they want to make a run at the playoffs. Sure, that’s the understatement of the year, but without Doolittle, the Nats offense would need to score seven or more runs every single game for the team to compete consistently.
If you told a Nats fan in March that a 42-year-old Fernando Rodney would be a pivotal piece to the 2019 Nationals’ stretch run, they would have called up insane. But as it turns out, that is the exact situation the Nats find themselves in.