Davey Martinez talked about keeping his team sharp and making sure they were ready to go when/if the 2020 MLB campaign got started again shortly after baseball postponed the start of the season back in mid-March, amid growing concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to make sure,” Martinez explained, “... especially with a shortened season, I think the teams that get off to a fairly quick start are going to benefit from this, 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.”
“We will be very prepared to defend the world championship which we hold right now, can’t forget that,” GM Mike Rizzo said in a Zoom call with reporters early in the shutdown, “... and that we are the defending World Champions, and we will go into this season, whenever that is, as the defending World Champs, and we take it seriously, and we feel again that we like the team that we have, and we feel that we are capable of repeating as the World Champs and we’re going to have a strategy in place for player health and player preparation to get us ready for Opening Day and from Opening Day it will be our goal to win another world title for D.C.”
Knowing that it wasn’t going to be a 162-game campaign, however, as Martinez mentioned, avoiding another slow start (like the Nats’ 19-31 start last season) would be of the utmost importance.
“We’re trying to stay in shape,” Hitting Coach Kevin Long told SiriusXM MLB Network Radio hosts Jeff Joyce and Jim Duquette earlier this month.
“[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.”
Nationals’ reliever Daniel Hudson, in an MLB Network Radio interview this past Friday, talked to Casey Stern and Ryan Spilborghs about preparing for what the players now know will be a 60-game in 66-day sprint.
Hudson was asked how long it will take to ramp up and get the competitive juices flowing a couple months after the club last gathered together to play baseball.
“Once we’re kind of around each other and kind of get back into a routine, and get those competitive juices going,” Hudson said, “I think it will be easy for most guys to kind of turn it on and realize, ‘Hey it is a sprint and not a marathon this year.’ I’m really excited to see what [Juan] Soto does after his year last year and his run in the playoffs. I’m excited about the additions we made. We brought [Asdrúbal Cabrera] back, we brought Howie [Kendrick] back, and brought in Will Harris to help us in the back-end of the bullpen. It’s going to be really exciting and I’m really looking forward to getting going with these guys and going out there and trying to defend the World Series. Even though it’s only 60 games, we’ve got a World Series to defend and hopefully we can do that and bring some excitement back to those fans in D.C.”
Whether or not it will be possible to play even a 60-game season amidst a global pandemic, with hundreds of players, coaches, and staff, all traveling and playing games while the virus continues to spread, is a big question, and the health aspects are what Hudson said should have been the main concerns over the last few months, which saw MLB and the MLBPA arguing over prorated salaries and where the burden of what it will take to pull this all off will fall.
“It was extremely frustrating, man,” Hudson said of watching from the sidelines as the talks played out over the last weeks and months.
“We took — unfortunately everybody took what was supposed to be trying to figure out health issues and it turned into a money thing. I think a lot of people unfortunately had the idea that it was going to turn to that in the long run, but ... being on the outside looking in was, frankly, it was a little bit embarrassing that it played out the way it did but thankfully we got through it and hopefully people can forgive everything and forget and we can just get back to playing baseball soon.”
For Hudson, who was released by the Los Angeles Angels in March 2019, signed on with the Toronto Blue Jays, was traded to Washington, and recorded the final out of the World Series for the Nationals, before testing free agency and eventually returning to D.C., only to have a pandemic shut baseball down before the 2020 campaign could start, it’s been a wild run in the last year-plus.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster, that’s for sure,” the 33-year-old reliever said. “You know, you’ve got the highs of October last year and then going through free agency and luckily landing back in D.C., where I wanted to be from the get-go, and then obviously Spring Training getting shut down and not knowing what’s going to happen and just kind of sitting in Arizona waiting for stuff to get going and the luckily we finally got things worked out and hopefully we can start going again next week.”
When he returns to D.C. for the start of Spring Training 2.0, however, Hudson said he’ll be on his own, with his family staying behind at their home in Arizona.
“My family is probably going to stay in Arizona just to make it easier on them,” he explained.
“They’re going to just be stuck in D.C. without anything to do, because my wife previously worked in health care, she was a nurse, so she knows how serious this thing can be. She would rather be at home with her family at home, and rather than take the potential risk of going out in D.C. and potentially giving it to me and me giving it to someone else, so they’re gonna be at home.”
“I’m originally from Virginia as well,” he added, “... so I have tons of family and friends in the area and I basically told them, ‘Hey, I’m going to be in a bubble, guys. I can’t leave the hotel, I can’t leave my apartment. I’m not going to be able to do anything this year.’ You guys obviously are not going to be able to come to games from the get-go, so I’m pretty much going to be by myself in D.C. and that’s the way it’s going to be for a little while.”
Everyone involved in the baseball season will have to be responsible for themselves and the others around them if they’re going to pull this thing off.
“I think this whole season rides on people being accountable,” Hudson said, “and holding themselves accountable and not being selfish and doing the right things and just staying indoors and following the protocols. It’s just going to be up to everybody individually to hold themselves accountable and not go out to get something to eat if you’re in a state that is open, and not going out to grab a beer after the game or do whatever it is that guys do after games. It’s just hotel; ballpark; home. That’s going to be it. And if we want to get this thing going and keep it going in the right direction then that’s what everybody needs to do.
“Holding guys accountable and making sure everybody is doing the right thing,” Hudson added. “Unfortunately you can’t control what everybody does away from the field all the time, but making sure that guys are doing the right thing and hopefully doing things that can ensure that we stay on the field and everyone stays healthy is going to be of the utmost importance.”
Hudson’s teammates Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross were two of the first three players to opt out of playing in the 2020 MLB season. They likely won’t be the last. Adam Eaton was talking to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Chad Dukes on Monday when he heard the news on Ross and Zim. Eaton said he’s going to play: