Tigers throw lifeline to former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Trevor Rosenthal made 93 saves for the Cardinals in 2014 and 2015.

Detroit — Just a few minutes after he went through a short bullpen session for manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal signed a minor league contract with the Tigers.

He is expected to report to Triple-A Toledo.

“This is an opportunity, but it had to be lined up with what I wanted to accomplish,” said Rosenthal, who is 29 and was released in June by the Nationals. “Just having that consistency, having a group of people that would support me and help me on those days when I need a little more work, little more time — that would allow me to do that.

“But I’ve been feeling really good.”

Rosenthal is from Lee’s Summit, Mo., near where Tigers assistant general manager David Chadd lives and has scouted for four decades. Anderson is also familiar with Rosenthal and his struggle to regain the form that made him one of the most feared and respected relievers in baseball.

He made 93 saves for the Cardinals in 2014 and 2015. In eight playoff series between 2012 and 2015, he and his plus-100 mph fastball, posted an 0.69 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 26 innings.

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His numbers fell off in 2016 and 2017, then he had Tommy John surgery in 2018. Although his upper-90s to 100-mph velocity has returned, his command has not.

“I’ve had good days and days that weren’t as good,” he said. “The main thing is consistency every day, which at this level is what’s expected. It’s just getting to the point where I find a good rhythm and just keep repeating.

“Hopefully I will have that opportunity here.”

What he was looking for was an organization that could provide him a consistent workload. He came to the right team.

"He wants to pitch and we want people to pitch, it's a good fit," Gardenhire said. "Let's let him find himself and get back to the big leagues."

Gardenhire was encouraged by what he saw in the brief bullpen season.

"It's another power arm and I like power arms," he said. "He's a guy who was a really good closer for a long time and he showed it out there. It was coming out of his hand really good.

"He was throwing the crap out of the ball down there. He wanted to throw for us. He asked for a chance and we took it. I am very happy for that."

Rosenthal mentioned several times that his struggle has been to find consistency.

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"Consistency with my performance and at the same time consistency when I am going to pitch, my role and the day to day," he said. "Just continuing to get my reps in. I want to be in a place where I can get that work in, work through things when I need to and have some help when I need it, too."

It sounds like that was something that he felt he didn't get earlier this season. 

"In conversations with him, it's about work," Gardenhire said. "If you misfire a couple of times and you don't have your stuff, all of a sudden the workload goes down. Then it's really hard to find it if you're not pitching."

Rosenthal signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Nationals in the offseason and struggled. He posted more walks and hit batters (18) than outs (17) in 6.1 innings over 12 games. His ERA was 22.74. He was released on June 23, with the Nationals on the hook for his remaining salary.

“It’s been a little bit of everything,” Rosenthal said. “Mechanics, feel, mentally just being confident and having a good rhythm — all those things are variables. Throughout the whole year, I don’t feel like it’s ever been just one thing that’s been the key.”

It's been nearly a week since Rosenthal pitched, but he doesn't expect that it will take long to kick off the rust at Toledo. But, noting the Nationals were in the visitors' clubhouse Saturday, he wished it was more immediate.

"I know, what are the odds, right," he said. "Like, can I be activated today?"


Twitter: @cmccosky