Pitchers and catchers were already in town along with some of the position players who arrived early, but the full squad finally showed up in West Palm Beach on Monday, and it really had Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez excited. It really did.
“As they start trickling in I start realizing, ‘Hey, it’s game on. They’re here, they’re excited,’” Martinez said on Monday afternoon, “... and today after seeing them all and getting their physicals, I am really excited about tomorrow.
“The pitchers and catchers set the precedents already, I mean, so far it’s been unbelievable.
“The energy, the excitement, it’s been a lot of fun,” he added, “so just these guys coming in and everybody being together for the first time, it’s going to be exciting.”
There are plenty of new faces in camp, a number of familiar ones as well, and the second-year skipper said there were none of the usual issues that crop up to sometimes keep the odd player from arriving on time.
“Everybody’s here,” Martinez said, before talking to reporters about some first impressions, including the fact that Howie Kendrick, who suffered a season-ending achilles injury early last season, is back at full strength.
“I saw everybody. I talked to everybody. So, it’s kind of nice to see everybody’s face, and everybody looks really good, I mean, I can’t speak for Howie, but man, he looks normal — well, like I said, I think he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. I saw [Brian] Dozier today, and he looks great, and he’s excited to be here and ready to go, and it’s going to be fun.”
Though there are a few young players in the outfield, in Juan Soto and Victor Robles, the rebuilt roster has a veteran feel with Kendrick and Dozier, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, new catchers Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes, and new starters Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez, who join a rotation which features Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and the returning Jeremy Hellickson, while relievers like Sean Doolittle, Matt Grace, Justin Miller, Koda Glover, are joined by new bullpen arms like Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough.
Martinez said there was a palpable veteran presence in camp, and a lot of talking as they all get reacquainted or get to know one another.
“You know what I really enjoy, is the conversations, and the communication so far amongst the pitchers and catchers,” he explained, “and I really believe that’s going to happen with the position players once they get in. The communication so far has been unbelievable. The conversation I’ve had with some of these guys like Aníbal Sánchez and Patrick Corbin and even Stras and Scherzer, the two catchers, has been incredible, it really has, and that to me speaks volumes.”
After the first full squad workouts and live batting practice sessions today, Martinez said he is much more comfortable with what he has to do in his second Spring Training as a major league manager.
“Does it sound like it?” he asked rhetorically. “It is very relaxed. As I said, I spent all winter in Washington with [GM Mike Rizzo] and everybody, and we addressed what we needed to address, the issues that we wanted to fix, and I feel really, really good going into Spring Training. Especially with the guys that we have right now. They look great. The first day of camp, and I thought it went great. I was excited to see everybody together and just listen to the conversations amongst each other. The guys that knew each other didn’t miss a beat. The new guys jumped right in and they all got along, so I’m looking forward to this year.”
The Nats’ skipper has been clear all winter, and he reiterated this Spring, that things will be different this time around.
“I want these guys to be present every day, and win their day,” Martinez said earlier this week, when he was asked about his approach to the work they’re doing.
“Everybody talks about the big picture, and the big picture is to get to the World Series, right?
“But how do we get there? You start off by today, winning today, focusing on the here and now and not so much worried about — because we can’t control what happens in the future, but we can control and get better today and that’s what I mentioned today, that’s going to be our philosophy going in, to say, ‘Let’s win our day today,’ giving a little bit more sense of urgency with fundamentals and how important it is to do the little things.
How is he getting that message across to the players?
“A lot of it has been through conversation and communication, and a lot of it, I set the tone today, but honestly, the pitchers and catchers already set the tone about what we wanted to do. They came into camp this year, and we talked, they set the precedents, and they’re ready to work. I told the guys today, ‘Hey, the pitchers came in here with a plan, and a message, saying that we want to work, and you guys are going to follow suit.’
“And it was great. We spent a little longer day today on the field than I wanted to, but we got a lot accomplished in one day, which was good, and that sends a message that hey we’re serious about the defense, we’re serious about all the little things that nobody really thinks about. Everybody thinks about the home runs and the strikeouts and this, but hey, we’re going to do all the little things right.”
A reporter noted that as the team ran through drills on the first day of full squad workouts, they were repeating things if anything went wrong, and doing it again until it was right. Is there a message there?
“We definitely want — hey, sometimes you get one shot to do it right,” Martinez said, “... so we want to make sure that we hone in on doing it right, so yeah, it was kind of a message: ‘When these things happen in a game, we want to be prepared.’ It may not happen great all the time, but we’re going to work on it, and I told these guys all the time, ‘Look, I’m not asking for perfection, I’m asking for you guys to be present, and let’s just be there, stay in the moment and be there consistently,’ and if we do that, then you know what, 9 out of 10 times we’re going to do it right.”