Rainey’s forearm tightness should be enough to end his season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Tanner Rainey was a bit of an outsider still in the first spring training of 2020. His role was unclear, though he pitched in high-leverage situations in the previous postseason. Perhaps he was the “sixth-inning guy” if there is such a label, making him the pitcher who arrives when a starter flounders one out into the sixth. He finishes things, then the 7-8-9 guys are lined up.
Now, with just more than two weeks remaining in a 60-game season, Rainey is the Nationals’ best reliever. He moved into the setup role, often handling the hardest part of the opposition’s lineup when he did pitch. He’s pitched in 20 of the Nationals’ 43 games. That’s a 75-appearance pace in a regular season. At the moment, his right forearm is tight and he is unavailable. Which leaves the Nationals with a choice: keep going or shut him down.
Rainey would have pitched in Friday night’s marathon were he healthy. Instead, he had an MRI earlier in the day on his forearm (results were negative).
“I think he’s just tired,” Davey Martinez said. He’s going to have [Saturday] off as well. I just want to give him a couple days off.”
He should probably take the rest of the season off. The Nationals have a seven percent chance to make the postseason, according to fivethirtyeight. Baseball Reference gives them an 8.6 percent chance to claim one of eight National League playoff spots. Fifteen days remain in the season, 17 games remain on the schedule. And, most important, Rainey can’t become a free agent until 2025.
“We’re in a difficult situation because we’re still playing to get into these playoffs,” Martinez said. "Not by any means are we giving up. But, he wants to pitch. He wants to be out there. He wants to help.
“With that being said, I’ve said this all along. You’re looking at potentially our future closer. We want to make sure that he doesn’t get hurt. We’ve got to keep an eye on him and be smart about this.
“If he goes out there and throws a flat ground and doesn’t feel right, I’m not going to put him in the game. We’ll have to do something else. We’ll keep a close eye on him and see where it goes from here.”
Harris and Hudson have pitched poorly. Doolittle has a severe strain of his right oblique. His season, and time in Washington, have likely come to a close. The Nationals can use a variety of relievers to limp through the final two weeks of the season. There’s no reason to put Rainey back on the game mound, not in this hot-mess season. The sound, and simplistic choice, is to wait until next year.