WASHINGTON, D.C.: Dusty Baker gave Victor Robles his second start in the majors on Thursday night and got a 2 for 4 game out of the 20-year-old outfielder, who scored two runs in what ended up a 5-2 win over the Atlanta Braves.
The two-hit night left Washington’s top prospect 3 for 9 through five games since he was called up to make his MLB debut.
Baker told reporters he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Robles so far even if it’s just been a handful of at bats.
“You’ve got to like what you see,” he said “and you see why everybody wanted to trade for him, and you see why we didn’t give him up and include him in any of those trades.”
“He could be an impact player,” Baker added. “You like what you see. You said a handful of at bats, but that’s quite a few at bats considering September call-ups in a race that usually don’t get any at bats other than just pinch hits.”
So seeing how he’s done so far, will the Nats’ skipper give Robles more opportunities to play down the stretch so he can see what he really has?
“No, I don’t know how,” Baker explained, “because we’ve got stuff to do, and we’ve got a big series coming up, I mean, if you give a guy at bats, that means somebody else got to sit down, and so I’ll get him in there when I think it’s necessary and when I think it’s appropriate, because I’m not going to shelve our guys that got us to this point, and I’ve got to get these guys ready for the playoffs.
“Everybody has gotten at bats, you see,” Baker said, “and so I’m trying to keep them sharp, I’m trying to keep our other guys sharp and rested so we can go to the end.”
Before this afternoon’s series opener with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baker was asked if Robles is getting serious consideration for the Nationals’ postseason roster, young and inexperienced as he is.
“If I didn’t think so I wouldn’t play him at all, know what I‘m saying?” Baker said.
“But I don’t want to get carried away, because I’ve seen September call-ups, and then you can’t find them come next April.
“You want to bring him on slowly, but at a speed that you think he can handle emotionally and psychologically.
“So, yeah, I’ve got my eyes on him, but at the same time, I’ve got my eyes on [Rafael] Bautista, I’ve got my eyes on [Pedro] Severino, I’ve got my eyes on Raudy [Read], I don’t want to single him out because he’s been singled out enough already, sometimes you just got to let a kid be a kid, even though he’s acting like a man, does that make sense?”
It does. And as for Robles “acting like a kid”? Baker actually had an example.
“I saw him sitting in the laundry basket when I came in here,” Baker said incredulously.
“He was very comfortable. And that’s stuff kids do, right? They go play in the laundry basket or sit in trash cans. What are you going to do about it? He’s a kid.”
Baker spent time with Robles in Spring Training, and was impressed, and the outfielder continues to make an impression now that he’s up, after he put up a .300/.382/.493 line in two stops in the Nationals’ system this season before he came up.
What’s stood out for Baker thus far in Robles’s time in the majors?
“There’s a lot I haven’t seen,” he said, “you haven’t seen. Just because a guy hits and [has] speed and all this, you don’t know if he knows where to throw the ball yet, or keep the ball down, or just different things that go into being big league ready.
“Sometimes we make the mistake, all we see is hit, run, throw, and catch. We haven’t been in a position to see how he reacts on his feet, you know what I mean, so the thing that sticks out the most I guess, is that he’s not — he doesn’t seem fazed by most of it, and he stays off the tough pitches, usually young players chase the breaking ball, and then I saw a play last night that probably went unnoticed when that ball went off of [Adam] Lind and [Wilmer] Difo’s gloves and [Robles] was right there to back up and he was the one that got to the ball. Now these are things that I notice as a ballplayer that don’t go on the stat sheet that goes unnoticed that helps you win.”