There can’t be many experiences in sports more bewildering and humiliating than the yips, and any player going through something yip-like deserves sympathy, if not pity. In the case of Nationals reliever Trevor Rosenthal, it especially sucks to think that his current season-long inability to throw strikes is a consequence of the elbow injury that already robbed him of a year of his career.
But there eventually has to be a limit to the professional latitude extended to a pitcher who cannot get outs, and, assuming the Nationals are even remotely serious about getting their wobbly season pointed in the right direction, Rosenthal must be approaching that limit. He took the mound again Wednesday afternoon, for the eighth inning of the rubber match of Washington’s series with the Colorado Rockies, with his team down 6–3. It was Rosenthal’s first appearance in eight days, and just his third in two weeks. Frankly, there haven’t been enough low-leverage situations recently for the Nationals to consider using a pitcher who can’t pitch.
Rosenthal’s infinite ERA is a thing of the past, thankfully, but entering today’s game it was still a gruesome and not at all fluky 40.50. With his second pitch he fired a 96-mph heater into Charlie Blackmon’s back, his third HBP in eight appearances this season; it was one of four wild pitches Rosenthal threw in his 31-pitch nightmare inning of work. Saying that Rosenthal is struggling with command is like saying the moon is struggling with irrigation. He appears to have no idea where the ball will go when he throws it. Even his few strikes were problematic:
Rosenthal managed to finish the inning, possibly because Ryan McMahon and Raimel Tapia were swinging in sheer terror. The good news is, when your ERA is 40.50, you can give up three runs in an inning of work and drive it in the right direction—it sits now at a disheartening 36.00. Washington’s bullpen situation is ugly enough that they can’t much longer justify keeping a guy around who can’t pitch even once a week, and who has far less command of his offerings than your average t-shirt cannon. Manager Davey Martinez has the undignified job of keeping a straight face while almost literally transforming into the “This Is Fine” dog after each explosive Rosenthal appearance:
Buddy, if a HBP and three more wild pitches is Rosenthal throwing the ball “better,” he is way too erratic to be allowed to hurl fastballs in the direction of other humans. Rosenthal is out there throwing 99-mph fastballs with no evident control over their trajectory—at a certain point it tips over from sloppy pitching and becomes reckless endangerment. The whole thing sucks, it’s unfair, it’s grueling to watch, it is a genuine bummer, but also Rosenthal is not at all an MLB-caliber pitcher these days, and the Nationals are doing him no favors by continuing to pretend otherwise.