Nats' missing piece: A 42-year-old Fernando Rodney?

Ben Krimmel
June 29, 2019 - 11:38 am

So you're saying all they had to do was sign a 42-year-old relief pitcher? You mean the missing piece was a guy who just got released after his ERA hit 9.42 in 17 appearances this season?

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Well, maybe Fernando Rodney was all the Washington Nationals really needed. 

“I just tried to do my job,” Rodney said after Friday's game. “I think I did what I’m supposed to do tonight.”

And the Nationals jumped above .500 for the first time since they were 9-8 on April 18 in Ryan Zimmerman's return from the IL.

Juan Soto hit his 14th homer of the season and Anibal Sanchez had his fifth quality start in his last six appearances, but it was the performance of Rodney overshadowing them all. With Sean Doolittle having pitched on back-to-back nights to close the series in Miami, Washington turned to Rodney to nail down a 1-2-3 ninth inning and earn the save in a 3-1 win.

"What I really like is his fastball was good and his changeup was really good,” manager Davey Martinez said. “Fernando, he’s done it. He’s pitched in big moments. He gets it. For me today, when Doo was not available, he was the guy in the ninth.”

That changeup was especially nasty.

After tallying a 3.36 ERA over 68 appearances in 2018, Rodney got off to a tumultuous start with the A's and was designated for assignment after just 14 1/3 innings this season. Mike Rizzo and the Nationals scooped him right up.

The Nationals sent Rodney to Triple-A Fresno to work on some things.

“They told me, ‘Hey, we’re going to pick you up, but you have to go to the minor leagues and work,’” Rodney said. “That’s what I do exactly. I know if I go down there exactly what I have to do, prepare myself for the game, I feel great.”

Perhaps the demotion by the A's is powering some of the 42-year-old's drive.

“I’m surprised sometimes because some people think I’m too old for the league, but this is the experience I have,” he said. “Sometimes it looks easy to people outside the game. It’s not an easy job, but I feel comfortable when the game situation’s like that. I feel more comfortable. I throw everything I have, fastball, changeup, whatever I have to do to keep the game that way.”

And so it was back-to-back spotless innings to start his Nationals' career.

“Davey know I got my confidence,” Rodney said. “I just always want to be in the game to help the team.”

The fact that he's still able to do this doesn't make sense. But, does much of anything make sense anymore? As we get older and stop making sense, you won't find reason waiting long.

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