Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez talked shortly after Spring Training and the start of the 2020 were postponed in mid-March about knowing his club would have to be ready to play if/when what would clearly be a shortened season actually started.
“We have to get ready and get them ready to go play wherever they’re going to play, that’s really my focus,” Martinez explained when he was asked about the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to make sure, especially with a shortened season, I think the teams that get off to a fairly quick start are going to benefit from this,” he continued, “... so I want these guys to understand that, ‘Hey when this season starts we’ve got to be in like June 1st form, like hey, let’s go, it’s go-time,’ and we’re going to prepare for that.”
Martinez’s club, of course, got off to an awful 19-31 start last Spring, before rebounding to go 74-38 the rest of the way, earning a Wild Card berth and then battling through five win-or-game-home elimination games on the way to the first World Series win by a D.C.-based team since 1924.
When he spoke with reporters again on May 1st, the skipper of the defending champs said he was talking to players regularly to see how everyone was handling the relative levels of isolation while staying at their respective homes.
“Everybody is uncharted waters, it’s different for everybody,” Martinez explained.
“One, I know the players, they want to play. Their concerns are the safety [for] them, their families, their teammates.
“But with that being said, every guy that I’ve talked to, they’re looking forward to playing, playing soon, they understand that the most important thing is the health of everybody.”
“I’m very optimistic that we will have baseball,” Martinez said then, before the proposals for a 2020 season were sent back and forth between MLB and the MLBPA over the last few weeks, “... so every day I wake up, I try to focus on where the guys are at right now, what we need to do to prepare for our season.”
Nationals’ hitting coach Kevin Long, in a SiriusXM MLB Network Radio interview this past Monday, said that’s still the focus for the coaching staff as they talk to players and wait to see what the season will look like if they do start playing at some point this summer.
“We’re trying to stay in shape,” Long told hosts Jeff Joyce and Jim Duquette.
“[We’re] trying to stay ready as much as we can and just kind of be ready and understand that it might be a sprint this year and not a marathon.”
Will the Nationals, who played through October, beating the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the 2019 Fall Classic after a long season and exhausting postseason run, benefit from the sort of truncated season that, according to rumored plans, could end up being around 82 games, as opposed to the usual 162 (or even 50-ish if MLB and the MLBPA can’t work out something else)? Are there advantages to a sprint vs a marathon?
“I mean, you’ve just got to kind of — I think having a pretty good start helps,” Long laughed.
“You can’t afford to go 19-31, that’s for damn sure,” he added. “You’ve got to kind of come out and you’ve got to play decent baseball and I don’t even know what the playoff schedule is going to look like or how many teams are going to get in or what they’re going to do there. There’s a bit of uncertainty there as well: Are they going to take eight teams? Are they going to take 12 teams? Are they going to take 16? I don’t know what they’re going to do. If they’re only going to take maybe 8-10 teams, yeah, it’s important to get off to a good start.”
While the ability of pitchers to ramp up for a potential season has been a topic of discussion over the last few months, now that they’ve been shut down since mid-March, Long talked to the MLBNR hosts about how much time hitters would need to get back their swings going.
“I think we’re going to have to press the issue,” Long explained. “I think we’re going to have to a lot of velo work. I think velo is going to be the biggest challenge, because how many games are we ultimately going to play? I think somebody said maybe 5-6, there’s going to be a lot of [intra]-squad. Last year, we had a long layoff before the World Series, and we were able to do a lot of speed work — meaning guys would move up and they would challenge themselves at higher velos, even on BP, guys can move up to where they’re like 15 feet away from us, and you just kind of fire it in there and it kind of gets them game-ready, so we’ll have to do some stuff like that. Our guys are pretty diligent and pretty good about getting their work in, but yeah, it’s going to be different than it normally would [be]. I think our guys will be okay, but again, we’re going to have be creative, and we’re going to be have to be able to do some things that maybe we haven’t done in the past.”
And it’s not like the players have just been sitting around since mid-March. They have been working out in whatever ways they can.
“These guys have got a lot of different set-ups,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last month.
“There are some guys seeing some live pitching, if you’re lucky enough to have a pitcher that can challenge you a little bit that lives around you and that type of thing.
“Same thing with the pitchers, if you’re lucky enough to have a person that could handle a Max Scherzer or a Stephen Strasburg around you that you could do it, we’ve got a lot of guys doing a lot of ingenuity to figure out ways to stay prepared for the season.
“Somebody should do a documentary on the different types of setups that these guys have, it’s really remarkable.
“Guys buying portable mounds so they can throw off [them] in their back yards and buying batting cages, and pitching machines, and curveball machines, and that type of thing to ready themselves in a very unique, unique situation.”
“The other day I talked to Scherzer and he said he threw to Trea [Turner],” Long said.
“I don’t know where they were, but that was probably a couple weeks ago, which I thought was kind of interesting in the fact that, No. 1, Scherzer was staying ready, which doesn’t surprise me at all, and that he was throwing to Trea and other hitters I thought was a good thing.”