Once he was hired as the Washington Nationals’ manager this past November, first-time skipper Dave Martinez said one of the first things he wanted to do was get in touch with his players.
“As soon as this day is over,” he told reporters during his introductory press conference in the nation’s capital last month, “my job is to start getting on the phone and to start communicating with all the players.”
He told reporters at the Winter Meetings on Monday that he spent the first month on the job doing just that, among other things, in a busy couple weeks on the job.
“It's been busy,” Martinez said.
“I started building relationships with all the players through phone calls and texting, and really looking forward to working with all of them. Great bunch of guys. They're very excited. So it's been fun.”
“We talked about a bunch of different things,” he continued.
“I know when Max [Scherzer] had a baby, we talked about that. And [Anthony] Rendon getting married, and being excited about that. And I wished him good luck.
“It's been fun.”
He’ll have a chance to meet many of the players in person this weekend when they’re all in D.C. for Winterfest, but he said he thought it was important to reach out to talk to everyone.
“So from here I leave Thursday to go to Washington, and we got our Winter Fest,” he said. “So I'll meet all the players then. But our communications over the phone, to me, [are] really important to build that relationship and start getting to know these guys and what makes them tick and let them know that, hey, I'm there not only to be your manager, but to help you in any way I can. And it's good to know that they're open-minded, they want to win and they also want somebody that can believe in them, and I'm here for them.”
Did he talk to anyone else... like, Bryce Harper maybe?
“Yeah, I talked to Bryce.”
How did that go?
“Awesome. I'm looking forward to working with him and everybody else. He's one of the best players in the game, no doubt. So he's really excited and all these guys want to win.”
Martinez, inevitably, was asked about the fact that his first season in Washington, D.C. could, potentially, be Harper’s last if the 25-year-old outfield opts for free agency next winter and signs elsewhere.
Will he lobby for Harper to sign on to stay in the nation’s capital?
“Can I lobby right now?” Martinez asked.
Go for it.
“Hey, I can't wait to work with him and I hope we get to work together for a lot of years. He's a tremendous player. Of course anybody would want him on their team but as of right now he's a Washington National, and I'm looking forward to him being at Spring Training and working together.”
Another player who could, potentially, hit free agency next winter is Daniel Murphy, who’s put up a combined .334/.387/.569 line over the first two seasons of the three-year/$37.5M he signed with the Nationals in January of 2016.
Murphy underwent surgery, “(debridement and microfracture)... to repair damage to the articular cartilage in his right knee,” as the Washington Post reported in October and whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day will be decided this Spring.
“He's doing well,” Martinez said when asked about Murphy’s progress.
“His rehab is on schedule and I'm looking forward to getting him in Spring Training and actually getting him back on the field and see where we're at.”
Does he think Murphy will be ready for Spring Training?
“I don't know necessarily if he'll be ready,” he said. “As of right now... his rehab is right on schedule, so we'll have to take it by ear.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked in his own meeting with reporters on Monday if he felt it was necessary to add an infielder as insurance should the start of Murphy’s third season with the Nats be delayed.
“No,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got a really good infielder in Wilmer Difo. He brings a lot to the table as far as bringing Davey versatility and speed, switch hit, play great defense at shortstop and second base, can play third base, and we can throw him in the outfield. So he gives us versatility, gives us a great talent base, and he showed last year that he can play for extended periods of time and he’s a really good young player that probably deserves to have more time.”