The Nationals’ brief experiment with veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez ended Friday when they released the 35-year-old right-hander, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Rodriguez threw five total innings at three different levels of the Nationals’ system, allowing one earned run in those five innings while walking three and striking out two. The Nationals signed Rodriguez looking for, as one executive put it, “lightning in a bottle.” They did not find it.
Rodriguez began the season as the Tigers’ closer, but dropped off so much that he not only lost that job, but was then released. The Nationals signed him not with an eye on the closer’s job but rather looking for a veteran reliever with World Series experience who might help them.
The Nationals have taken several similar low-risk chances on veteran relievers. They gave Joe Nathan a chance in spring training, and signed Matt Albers to a free agent deal despite a down 2016 season. Nathan did not stick. Albers did, as Matt Belisle did last year and others have before him. Similar down-and-out veterans, such as left-hander Tim Collins — who began a rehab assignment today — remain in the Nationals’ system, but seem unlikely to help soon. Recent signing Kevin Jepsen, for example, has not appeared for their affiliates yet.
In the meantime, the Nationals will turn to Austin Adams and Trevor Gott to reinforce their bullpen this weekend in Cincinnati, hoping one of them might stick, too.