Rosenthal brings closer mentality to back of Nationals ‘pen

              FILE - In this March 1, 2019, file photo, Washington Nationals pitcher Trevor Rosenthal throws during the third inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins, in Jupiter, Fla. Rosenthal made the All-Star team when he had a career-high 48 saves for St. Louis in 2015. But the 28-year-old right-hander had Tommy John surgery late in the 2017 season and was released by the Cardinals that November. He held a showcase for teams last October, and then finalized a $7 million, one-year deal with the Nationals in November that could be worth $30 million over two years if he becomes the closer and regularly finishes games. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Even if Trevor Rosenthal isn’t closing for Washington, he’ll take the mound believing he is.

“I think that’s what ultimately allowed me to be successful as a closer is I just have one mentality, one approach,” Rosenthal said. “I approach every single inning kind of like I’m closing. I think that’s ultimately allowed me to be successful and I plan on keeping that same approach in the future.”

Rosenthal saved 93 games for St. Louis in 2014 and 2015 combined, but the Cardinals released him following the 2017 season after he underwent Tommy John surgery.

The righty didn’t pitch in 2018 and signed a one year, $8 millon contract with the Nationals in October. He arrived at camp ready to fire.

In his first appearance of the spring, Rosenthal hit triple digits on the scoreboard’s radar gun. The Nationals have encouraged him to back off a bit as he prepares to pitch in a major league game for the first time since August 2017.

“He’s been going great,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “He wants to amp it up. It’s more important for me that his mechanics are good to keep his arm strong.”

Opponents who survive the three aces at the top of Washington’s rotation — Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin — will still have to navigate a trio of closers late in games.

In Sean Doolittle, Kyle Barraclough and Rosenthal the Nationals have three experienced closing arms at the back end of a bullpen that pitched to a 4.05 ERA last season, 15th best in baseball.

It starts — or, in this case, ends — with Doolittle.

“He’s our closer,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said.

A two-time All-Star, Doolittle saved 35 games for Washington last season and 28 the year prior. With Rosenthal sharing the same bullpen, Martinez intends to occasionally use the left-handed Doolittle to match up against lefties in earlier innings.

“Having three guys that take that closer mentality into whatever inning that they pitch could really shorten the game,” Doolittle said.

Acquired in an October trade, Barraclough saved 10 games for Miami last season.

“In a perfect world you have Bear, Rosenthal, Doolittle,” Martinez said, indicating the order the trio would appear in games. “But there’s going to be certain situations in the game where I’d rather see Rosenthal facing this group of hitters and then Barraclough facing the next group of hitters.”

Washington cleared some room in its bullpen by releasing left-hander Sammy Solis on Saturday. Solis posted a 6.41 ERA in 56 appearances for the Nationals last season and owns a career 4.51 ERA over four seasons with Washington.