Victor Robles’s weekend in Boston’s Fenway Park began with a 3 for 4 game last Friday in which the 23-year-old center fielder doubled and scored two runs. His manager talked to reporters after the one win in three games against the Red Sox about how big a role their center fielder plays in the offensive success of the team.
“I know Victor can hit. So, to see him break out today and get three hits, it was nice, so let’s keep it going,” Martinez said.
“When he gets on base, all of a sudden that bottom of the lineup, he flips the lineup over and we can score a lot of runs.”
Martinez’s club scored 10 that night, in a 10-2 win, then scored eight in the next two, 5-3 and 9-5 losses, in which Robles went 1 for 8 with three Ks.
Washington’s Nationals traveled to Philadelphia after the series with the Sox, and Robles did not play in the series opener. His name wasn’t in the lineup for the second game of the four-game set either, however, so reporters wondered about Michael A. Taylor starting twice in a row against the Phillies. Was something wrong with Robles?
“I just wanted to get Victor a couple days off,” Martinez explained. “I talked to him. Victor is a high-energy guy, we all know that, and I wanted him to get two days off. I looked at some of his numbers and his bat speed has gone down a little bit the last few days. So just giving him a little break. I told him today he’ll come back and play, as long as he’s healthy, he’ll play the rest of the year. So, he’s been playing a lot.”
Robles missed time in Spring Training 2.0 after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, but he returned in time for the start of the 60-game season and played in 29 of the first 32 games, starting in all 29 before he got the last two days off.
“Here’s a guy that didn’t have hardly any Spring Training 2.0,” Martinez continued.
“He came off of the IL, and he had a couple days and he was off and running. So, I want to make sure that when he looks like he’s a little heavy, a little sluggish, I’m going to take care of him. And like I said, he’s a big part of this future, a big part of this organization.”
On the season, Robles has a .237/.311/.344 line with four doubles, two homers, seven walks, and 32 Ks in 106 plate appearances.
Those 32 strikeouts in 106 PAs? That’s a 30.2% K%, which is up over Robles’s 22.2%, 18.2%, and 22.7%, in 2017, ‘18, and ‘19, respectively, which had him in the top 20 (at No. 20) in K% going into Tuesday night’s game. Martinez didn’t mention the strikeouts in particular, but did mention the bat speed, and some of the jumps Robles was getting defensively, and it’s likely it wasn’t just on Sunday, when the wind and sun/shadows wreaked havoc on every player in the outfield in Fenway.
What was the manager seeing that led him to give Robles the two days off?
“For me, I keep close eye on him like I said. He’s a high energy guy, he’s very outspoken, he likes to goof around and the last few days in Boston, he was quiet, not himself,” Martinez said. “I saw some bad jumps in the outfield, and I thought his legs were just getting heavy on him. When I went back, like I said, I checked the numbers and his bat speed was a little down, his first step was a little down, so that to me tells me, hey, we got to give him some days off here and get him back to where he’s normal and playing the way he’s capable of playing.”
It helps, of course, as Martinez has said over his three seasons on the bench with the Nats, that he doesn’t think he loses much when he runs Michael A. Taylor out there to spell their other outfielders as he did for Robles in the first two games with the Phillies.
“Obviously with Michael and him, I believe we’ve got two of the best center fielders in the game,” Martinez said. “Michael doesn’t miss a beat out there. He’s actually, he’s swung the bat well. His average doesn’t say it, but he’s hitting the ball, so giving him two days to play kind of helps him as well.”
With two more in Citizens Bank this week and then four in three days with the Braves down in Atlanta, Robles will be back in there soon enough.
“I thought these two days, we’ve got a lot of games coming up, we’ve got a doubleheader on Friday,” Martinez said, “so get him two days and get him rejuvenated and get him back out there and let him play with that energy we’re accustomed to him playing with.”