Posted on June 25, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Fernando Rodney
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Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, and the Washington Nationals have definitely reached the point of desperation when it comes to their bullpen. On Tuesday, the Nats called up Fernando Rodney and Jonny Venters with the hope that the two veterans can somehow improve a bullpen that has held the team back this season.

The 42-year-old Rodney signed a minor league deal with the Nationals earlier this month. He began the season in Oakland but was released after posting a 9.42 ERA over 17 appearances. Based on those numbers, it would appear that Father Time has finally won his battle with Rodney. Then again, a year ago, Rodney saved 25 games in 31 chances for the Twins before being traded to the Athletics in August.

Since signing a minor league deal with Washington, Rodney has made nine appearances at triple-A. He’s 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA and a WHIP of 2.13. Those numbers don’t inspire a ton of confidence. But the Nationals are just desperate enough to see if they can squeeze the last little bit that Rodney might have left in the tank.

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Venters, meanwhile, is trying to show that last year’s success wasn’t a fluke. The lefty went over five years between major league appearances before resurfacing with the Rays last season. He was eventually traded to Atlanta, where he flourished early in his career, even becoming an all-star in 2011. Venters even won Comeback Player of the Year last season after pitching to a 3.67 ERA between his time with the Braves and Rays.

Alas, the wheels have fallen off in 2019 for Venters, who has endured two Tommy John surgeries in his career. The Braves dropped him after he allowed nine earned runs over 4.2 innings to start the season, walking eight while striking out seven during that span. But the Nationals took a chance on him by offering him a minor league deal. Venters has responded by posting a 0.64 ERA over 14 innings between double-A and triple-A.

The question now is whether Rodney and Venters can make a positive impact in the Washington bullpen. The good news is that they probably can’t get much worse. Trevor Rosenthal has already been let go. Joe Ross and Kyle Barraclough have both been demoted to the minors because of their poor performance. Meanwhile, Wandy Suero and Matt Grace, who lead the Nationals in appearances, both have an ERA north of 5.50.

The thinnest of silver linings in Washington’s bullpen has been closer Sean Doolittle. He has secured 16 saves in 19 opportunities. But even his ERA of 3.13 is underwhelming for a closer on a team that’s trying to compete. He also has little support from the pitchers in front of him, which is why the Nats are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle from Rodney and Venters.

As it stands, the Nationals are three games under .500. They are a distant eight games back in the NL East and 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. There’s enough time left in the season to turn things around, but not given the current state of their bullpen, which has the highest ERA in baseball. Odds are, Rodney and Venters won’t help to turn around Washington’s bullpen. But at this point, the Nationals are going to try anything they can to turn the tide.

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