WASHINGTON — The potential for being uprooted mid-season is a simple fact of life for Major League Baseball players.
Often times, especially closer to the annual trade deadline, players have little-to-no notice they’re even on the trade block, which often leads to compelling stories about where they are the exact moment they find out their lives are about to change.
When Drew Storen received word in Jan. 2016 he had been traded by the Nationals, he was, as he put it, “Just doing a little Netflix and chill with my wife.” To everyone’s amusement.
So what was Brandon Kintzler, the 33-year-old closer acquired by the Nationals, up to on Monday?
Well, the Twins were enjoying an off-day in beautiful San Diego ahead of their two-game series against the Padres. So, naturally, Kintzler was at the San Diego Zoo… literally feeding a rhinoceros and giraffe when he received the call.
“I was in the middle of feeding a rhino and a giraffe,” Kintzler said on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio. “Have you ever fed a rhino before?”
“And then we found out that we’re going to the Nats,” he explained. “And I’m excited to go to a nice race.”
That’s dope. So dope.
Kintzler, who’s saved 28 games for the Twins this season, the third-best mark in the American League, hadn’t been told, during his brief phone conversation with Mike Rizzo, what his new role might be in the Nationals bullpen.
“I just talked to Rizzo about five minutes ago,” Kintzler said Monday. “He just said they’re excited to have me, welcomed me to the Nationals and hopefully they can get me to Miami tomorrow. He just said I’ll help the bullpen out.
“They didn’t say anything about a role or anything,” he said. “I’m sure when I get there they’ll figure that out, but obviously I’ve done it all, so I’m open to doing anything. I’m just excited to be a part of the race.”
Kintzler learned what he knows about closing games from former
Everything Kintzler knows about closing games, he learned from former MLB reliever and current Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado.
“I just started to slow the game down really well in that role,” Kintzler said. “And I love the pressure of going in, even on the road, to quiet down stadiums. I had Eddie Guardado for a couple years. He tutored me the whole time on really how to slow the game down and I just embraced it.”
“For my plan, to attack hitters in the ninth inning, I think that works well,” he said. “I understand everyone loves strikeouts, but sometimes strikeouts lead to walks or whatever, and I was just all about attacking the hitters and it worked well for me in that situation, so we’ll see what happens.”