Davey Martinez’s team has dealt with its share of adversity early this season, and the skipper of the 2019 World Series champions knows what the Washington Nationals are up against in a 2020 season that’s being conducted amidst an ongoing pandemic.
With a few positive tests on his own roster, a bunch of positive tests for COVID-19 on other teams, a four-day break for the club, and a number of early-season injuries in the rotation and among position players, Martinez is doing what he can to keep everyone healthy and sharp as the 60-game campaign starts up in earnest.
“It’s really hard,” he acknowledged when he spoke with reporters in advance of last night’s game with the New York Mets, and was asked about the stop/start nature of things so far, with Spring Training ending in mid-March, Spring Training 2.0 starting up in early July, and the four-day break over the weekend which resulted from the Miami Marlins’ outbreak in advance of what was supposed to be a three-game series for the Nats in South Florida.
“You want to put the best eight guys out there every day,” Martinez said, “but you’ve got to keep in mind that some of these guys, they miss days for sick days or whatever, and that takes a toll on you. So you want to be smart. When you get them back you want to be smart.”
Martinez talked about Juan Soto, in particular, who came into contact with someone who’d tested positive upon returning to the nation’s capital for ST 2.0, then tested positive himself on the morning of the season opener (on July 23rd).
Soto missed the first two weeks of the restarted Spring Training, then another 10 days as the 21-year-old waited for two consecutive negative tests to free him up to return to the lineup, so he’s missed significant time, and Martinez is being cautious so the outfielder can avoid another setback in a 60-game season.
“Could be a situation where he plays three or four days in a row and needs a day off,” the manager said.
“We don’t know that. It’s going to be a lot of — based on conversation with him, and we’ll go from there.
“This whole year as you know has been — I’m watching, I’m reading all the injury reports on other teams and stuff, and guys coming up with some weird injuries and stuff, and we’re trying to prevent that with our guys. I’m really taking into consideration what guys tell me, whether it’s their back being sore, and really listening and say, ‘Hey, let’s not try to play through this, let’s try to take care of this right away and get you back as soon as possible.”
Looking at all the injuries around the league, and the positive tests that are impacting clubs’ rosters, and their opponents’ schedules, has Martinez’s thinking or his approach to handling this season changed?
“We’ve been talking as a whole,” Martinez said. “And I’ve talked to our medical staff every day.
“We’ve got to follow the protocols. Plain and simple. In the clubhouse, on the field, when we leave the ballpark, all this stuff is going to play, big-time, in order to keep everybody safe.”
That being said, he thinks the Nationals are handling things as well as they can so far, but he is concerned about everyone involved.
“We’re not just worried about us, personally, but I’m worried about everybody else — somebody getting infected and giving it to somebody else,” he said.
“I think the players are aware of that. So, we’ve got to be smart.
“So far we’ve kept this thing away from us because we have been smart. I talk to the guys constantly about wearing your mask, kind of staying at home if you can.
“‘Cause we’re in some trying times. I said this before, we love to compete on the field, but we’re also competing off the field, and part of that is just staying healthy.
“If we can stay healthy, we can do something special again.”