Updated: Jan 28
The Nationals introduced their newest reliever in left-hander Brad Hand today. The 30-year-old southpaw agreed to a one-year, $10.5 million deal with the Nats, helping to strengthen the backend of the pen that already boasts Daniel Hudson, Will Harris and Tanner Rainey.
Hand, who has pitched in the majors for 10 seasons, returns to the National League for the first time since 2018 in San Diego. He throws his four-seam fastball 80 percent of the time, and also features a slider and sinker. Although he has lost a bit of velocity off his fastball, something the southpaw said he has focused on this offseason to improve, he did put together an outstanding 2020 season, recording 16 saves and registering a 2-1 record with a 2.05 ERA in 23 appearances. He struck out 29 batters in 22 innings.
Hand remembers arriving in Cleveland mid-season in 2018 and is excited to be reunited with former Indians catcher Yan Gomes in D.C.
“I've always enjoyed throwing to him and he was one of the first guys I texted when we came to terms on a deal,” Hand said on a Zoom video call with reporters Tuesday. “I'm very excited to get to work with him again. He is a good friend and he is great back there, knows how to call a game. One of the better catchers in the league."
Hand hopes to wear jersey No. 52 with the Nats, he said he is still waiting for the confirmation from Wally in the clubhouse that he got the jersey. But one thing he knows for sure is playing for the Nats the goal every season is to get to the World Series, and that’s exactly what he wants.
"For sure it's big,” Hand said. “Obviously, the moves the Nationals have already made this offseason, bringing in (Kyle) Schwarber and (Josh) Bell, two big moves there. With the starting rotation that they got we got a good chance to go deep in the playoffs. Obviously, this is going to be one of the tougher divisions in baseball competition-wise so we are going to have to be ready to go, prepared for that. But I like our chances."
Of course, every time Hand does something in a baseball game, or gets notoriety during his first foray into free agency, he hears the “Talk to the hand!” or “Aloha, my name is Mr. Hand!” jokes, inspired mainly by the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. Hand thinks the play on words is amusing, and does not take offense.
"I think it's funny,” Hand said. “My pitching coach in San Diego, when he called down to get me going, he would say 'get Mr. Hand hot!
The Nats hope another famous line from the other Mr. Hand in that oft-quoted flick is apropos for the new left-hander as they work to get back to the post season:
“Yes, it is our time. Mine, yours and everyone else's.”