Dusty Baker talked to reporters this weekend about the thinking behind calling Brian Goodwin up from Triple-A for his first stint in the majors when Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the 15-Day DL.
Goodwin, 25, and a 2011 1st Round pick, put up a .284/.350/.434 line with 25 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 14 steals in 451 plate appearances at Triple-A Syracuse before he got the call.
Part of it was a reward for his performance. Part of it was a desire to get Michael A. Taylor regular at bats with the top minor league affiliate rather than have him play part-time in the majors.
But, Baker said, Goodwin deserved the call.
“Goody earned it,” Baker explained. “We believe in also calling up guys that are on the roster, but you want to call up guys that have earned it. He’s having a good year. He’s having the best year since he’s been with us.
“I urged him in Spring Training to have this — hopefully — this kind of year, because you can go from a prospect to a suspect in no time. And so, he was kind of at that — I told him, ‘You’re at a turning point in your baseball career,’ and so he turned it on and you’ve got reward guys when they do what you asked them to do.”
It was a long road to the majors for the 34th overall pick of the 2011 Draft, who dealt with injuries and ups and downs in terms of performance over his five seasons in the Nationals’ minor league system.
In 114 games and 451 plate appearances at Double-A Harrisburg in 2015, Goodwin put up a .226/.290/.340 line with 17 doubles, four triples, eight home runs and 15 runs in seven stolen bases.
After working with Minor League hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich, Goodwin played a 35-game stint with the Bravos de Margarita in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he put up a .316/.401/.459 line with eight doubles, a triple, three home runs and five steals in 35 games and 154 PAs.
Assistant GM Doug Harris told MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that Goodwin applied what he learned.
"Brian really bought into what Troy was trying to accomplish and understanding the detail, the retention and some of the important aspects of being a good hitter," Harris said. “I'm hopeful that carries over. ”
Goodwin told reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, it was all worth it in the end.
“Lot of ups, lot of downs,” Goodwin said.
“Lot of time to figure some stuff out about myself, as a person and as a player. But I think it was all necessary. Eventually it got me here, so it was good.”
Goodwin made his MLB debut as a defensive replacement for Bryce Harper in Saturday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants, flying out in his one at bat.
This afternoon in the nation’s capital, Goodwin was penciled into the starting lineup by Baker, in right field with Harper out again as he deals with neck stiffness.
In an interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s The Sports Junkies this morning, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about what fans could expect from Goodwin.
“Goody is a four-tool player,” Rizzo said.
“He really has good speed, good defensive abilities at three outfield spots. Had an extremely effective season this year in Triple-A, earned the right to get to the big leagues and he’s a guy that can run, put the bat on the ball and really help us on both sides, offensively and defensively. He can run, steal you a base, he’s a good all-around player.”
In his first at bat of the game this afternoon, Goodwin stepped in with runners on second and third and two out and went down swinging at a 1-2 cutter inside from Indians’ righty Josh Tomlin.
With the score tied at 4-4 in the third, Goodwin stepped in with two out and the bases empty. He spit on the 1-2 cutter inside this time, but grounded out sharply to first on the next pitch to end the frame, 0 for 2.
Goodwin grounded out to move Anthony Rendon up a base with one out and reliever Dan Otera on the mound in the fifth, after Rendon drove in two runs with a double, 0 for 3.
He got another shot at connecting on his first major league hit in the eighth, and hit a 96 mph, 0-2 fastball from reliever Zach McAllister through the right side for a single.
Here's the first big league hit for Brian Goodwin. Hugs all around for him once he gets back to the dugout. pic.twitter.com/REBXZ3F0Dd— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) August 10, 2016
“Brian has a lot of talent and he’s really gotten it together,” Baker told reporters after the Nationals’ 7-4 win over the Indians. “He went to Venezuela, I think, last winter and he’s come a long ways.
“He had a great, not great, but he had a good year in Triple-A. He’s confident. He can play all three outfield positions, and everybody was so happy for him tonight to get your first hit, cause everybody remembers...
“[Max] Scherzer said, ‘Hey do you remember your first hit was?’ And I asked Scherzer and he said his first hit was Randy Johnson, and I asked him did he remember his first strikeout, and he told me yeah, he gave me a name that I didn’t know.”
[ed. note - “It was Ryan Dempster. Sorry, Ryan.”]
“Which wasn’t as impressive as Randy Johnson,” Baker continued. “But it was Randy at the end of his career in San Francisco, I’d forgotten he was with San Francisco.
“So everybody has that moment that you get your first hit and you’ll never forget it.”