Given his unconditional release by the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, free agent pitcher Trevor Rosenthal isn’t completely closing the door on a possible return down the line.
“It was one of those things where we were looking at all the options and just based on where I was at in my contract and historically what the Cardinals have done with players and how they kind of like to run their roster, we anticipated this would be the most logical scenario with the hope that we could still possibly work something out and continue to be a part of this organization,” said Rosenthal. “That’s what my desire was on my end. I guess it’s still a possibility, I haven’t gone anywhere else yet so we’ll see how that continues to play out.”
This past season, Rosenthal made $6.4 million and was eligible for arbitration this off-season. Complicating matters was the Cardinals need to free up roster spots before November 20th to protect several of their minor league prospects. The two sides engaged in conversation about trying to work out a multi-year situation, but were unable to come to an agreement.
Now there will be more expanded options as a free agent for Rosenthal as he completes his rehab from Tommy John surgery the end of August.
“Everything’s going as scheduled,” said Rosenthal. “It’s pretty crazy just how good I feel–at this point, it doesn’t even feel like I’ve had surgery. Obviously, it’s still early on. I haven’t started throwing yet, but just doing my training, my rehab stuff, and will continue that as normal. It feels pretty much like a normal off-season so far–just going in everyday, working out, spending my time with my family, and it’s kind of business as usual.”
Anticipating this could be the course of action by the Cardinals, Rosenthal put together his own rehab team and begun working out on his own away from the team.
“As I start to look ahead, I know things will start to feel a little bit different knowing that I won’t be heading to Spring Training with the Cardinals, but I’m going to start throwing around that Spring Training timeline, so it just really feels to me like everything’s normal,” continued Rosenthal. “I just don’t have that Spring Training forecast in my future that I’m really trying to gear up for and do everything I can to try to be ready for the 2018 season. It’s like I have this really prolonged timeframe to get myself ready to pitch.”
And if that timeframe includes not pitching until the final couple of months or even missing the entire 2018 season, Rosenthal is okay with that.
“That’s kind of what I’ve had my eye on the whole time,” he admits. “I’m not rushing to comeback for the 2018 season to pitch at any point. My doctor’s confident that I’m going to be ready to pitch in 2018…but trying to make it a situation where I’m more than 100% and ready to comeback.
“I think that might have been ultimately what lead to the release with the Cardinals too, them kind of knowing that I didn’t personally want to myself in a situation where I felt pressure to pitch before I was ready. I kind of want it to happen when it’s supposed to happen. If that happens to be in 2018 and there’s a team that has a need then we can make that happen and if not, it will be a fun place to be heading into the 2019 season and seeing which teams could use my help the most.”
Even while he was putting up 40-save seasons, Rosenthal always kept his hopes alive that someday he would be able to give a return to the starting rotation a shot in the big leagues. As he resets his career at this juncture, is that still the case?
“I don’t think so,” he answered. “Kind of the position I’m in right now, it really gives me the chance to optimize that experience that I have. We’re talking about potentially taking more than 12 months of rehab to pitch for one season for a team, kind of like a Greg Holland situation.”
This extended plan would allow for Rosenthal to rehab all of the upcoming season and off-season, instead of coming back for just a couple of months and perhaps a run into the playoffs.
“I know teams are going to look at it in that fashion as well,” he said. “If I end up really playing this thing out and waiting, and watching how this next season develops similar to what we saw in this postseason and teams that need that late inning help, I’m pretty excited to be in a spot where I can jump right in to that 9th inning role and hopefully pick up right where I left off.”
And if this is indeed the end of his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Rosenthal takes with him the franchise record of 48 saves in a season along with the moment of striking out Mark Ellis to clinch the 2013 NLCS and many other great memories.
“Just all those post-season memories are something that I think are first and foremost,” agreed Rosenthal. “It’s something that was very special. It solidified even more over the last couple years when we haven’t been there and you’re watching on tv and how much you miss it and realize how special that really was. Behind that, the year with the 48 saves, the All-Star Game, those are pretty special moments for me. And really, 2012 when I first came up was a pretty cool experience–kind of being off the radar and making my way through the ranks quickly and finding myself in the Major Leagues in a season where I didn’t anticipate that. The opportunity that Mike Matheny gave me in those early years was pretty special to me as well.”
photo credit: Billy Hurst, Scott Kane, Jasen Vinlove, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports