A little over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Tanner Rainey got back on the hill in the minors this past August on a rehab stint.
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters he was happy to have the 30-year-old working his way back in the club’s system, as Rainey tried to get his mechanics in order, while building up his arm.
“For me, I’d rather keep him down there [in the minors] right now just to kind of build him up,” Martinez explained. “He’s still working on some mechanical stuff, and trying to really get ready and be consistent.”
“It’s all about consistency,” the Nats’ skipper added. “He’s missed a lot of time. But the good news is he’s facing hitters, he’s getting better, he’s working on some things, so we want him to continue to do that.”
Acquired by Washington from Cincinnati in a straight-up deal for Tanner Roark back in 2018, Rainey had a breakout year in 2020’s COVID campaign, and bounced back from a rough ‘21 season with a strong showing in 2022 before the elbow injury.
Rainey made 13 appearances in the Nationals’ system before the front office tried to find a way to get him back up on the major league roster at the end of the season this past year.
“I’m trying to think of ways to get him on the roster,” Martinez said in late September.
“We might have to do that. Some of our bullpen guys are hanging on by a thread here a little bit.
“We might activate him … if we need him. So I want him to stay with us. He’s going to throw a bullpen again today, and then we’ll see where we’re at.”
GM Mike Rizzo told reporters over the final weekend it was important to see Rainey back in the big leagues challenging himself against major league hitters again.
“I want to see Tanner in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “I want to see how he reacts and how he performs.
“Not so much that he has anything to prove, because we kind of know the pitcher that he is — but I think it’s important for him and for us to see him pitch and for him to do it before the season’s over.”
Rainey finally got the call in Game 161 of 162 this season. He threw just 18 pitches, 10 four-seamers and eight sliders, averaging 96.2 MPH with his fastball in the one inning he threw, with his breaking ball at 87.1 MPH average, down a tick from his last stint in the majors, as probably should be expected, but his manager liked what he saw.
“I thought we’d get him out there, and we’re down a couple runs, but it was a good part of the lineup for him, and he did really well,” Martinez explained when asked how he decided where to finally get Rainey work.
“As we saw, he did really well, and like I knew, and like we talked about with him, he’s an adrenaline guy, he’s going to come in, his velo is going to be up in the mid-90s, and his slider was really effective.
“I’m proud of him. He worked really hard, he got to pitch in a game. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but he did a great job.”
“The only thing I can say is, it made the 14 months worth it,” Rainey told reporters when he spoke following his return outing, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato.