Summer 2024

21 MLB players to watch in 2021: Oakland Athletics pitcher Trevor Rosenthal

Through the month of March, leading up to MLB Opening Day on April 1,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting 21 Christ-following players to watch in 2021.

Though he did not end up winning Comeback Player of the Year, Trevor Rosenthal’s reemergence was among the most heartwarming stories of the 2020 MLB season, when he starred for both the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres. This year, he’ll try to replicate his success with the Oakland Athletics, the fifth team he’s played for in three years.

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Rosenthal missed all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was left looking for a new team following his release from the St. Louis Cardinals. He joined the Washington Nationals prior to the 2019 season and struggled mightily, giving up 16 earned runs and walking 15 batters in 6.1 innings before getting released again.

For someone who posted a sub-3.50 ERA in five of his six seasons in St. Louis and recorded 121 saves for the team, being unable to get batters out was a new experience. It got to the point where the 2015 All-Star accepted his baseball career might be over.

“There was just a calmness, a peace, a sense of security, like, ‘It’s gonna be OK,'” Rosenthal said in October on the Table Forty Podcast. “This isn’t everything. There’s a plan. If it’s not baseball, we didn’t know what it was. But I just knew that this wasn’t the end of the world for us. This wasn’t going to be the worst thing we ever experienced.”

The struggles continued during stints with the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, a significant portion of which were spent in Triple-A. Rosenthal used the on-field adversity as an opportunity to lean on God and strengthen his relationship with Christ.

“That foundation [of faith] was there, but it’s still hard, you know?” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast last March. “To go through that was something that challenged those beliefs at little bit. I can say, ‘My identity is in Christ’ … but [when] things kind of hit the fan and you struggle, it kind of puts that faith to the test and that’s exactly what happened.”

A fresh start in 2020 did wonders for Rosenthal, who returned to being one of the best relievers in baseball thanks in part to a familiar face. He signed with the Royals in the offseason, reuniting him with his former manager from St. Louis, Mike Matheny.

Rosenthal registered seven saves in 14 appearances for Kansas City and owned a 3.29 ERA in 13.2 innings of work with the team.

“My former manager from the St. Louis Cardinals, Mike Matheny, signing back (as manager with the Royals), I feel like that, for me, was just a huge part in how God works and how He’s kind of brought me through the last couple years,” Rosenthal said in the Sports Spectrum interview.

The 30-year-old pitched so well that he became one of the most sought-after players at the trade deadline, and he was dealt to San Diego. Rosenthal didn’t allow an earned run in nine regular-season outings for the Padres and helped them reach the postseason for the first time since 2006.

He had plenty of suitors to choose from in free agency, opting to ink a one-year, $11 million deal with Oakland. Rosenthal is expected to replace the departed Liam Hendricks as the Athletics’ primary closer.

The trials and challenges of the past three years have allowed Rosenthal to put Proverbs 3:5-6 into action: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

— 21 MLB Players to Watch in 2021
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