Davey Martinez shared a fun anecdote with reporters over the weekend when he talked about the adjustments Alex Avila is making as the veteran catcher, who signed with the Nationals on a 1-year/$1.5M free agent deal this winter, gets to know his new team and works with a range of new pitchers on Washington’s roster.
“Today he caught Wander Suero,” Martinez said.
The hard-throwing, 29-year-old, cutter-heavy (81.6%) reliever apparently surprised Avila with the movement he gets.
“It’s funny. Wander in his warmups he threw a pitch and obviously it was a cutter, and [Avila] dropped the ball and I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’
“And he goes, ‘Cutter. I got it now.’
“I said, ‘Hey, be ready, because they all cut.’
“So it was kind of funny.”
Avila, 34, and a veteran of 12 big league seasons, has history with Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Jon Lester, but he acknowledged after signing on in D.C. that it would take some time to get to know the entire pitching staff in the nation’s capital.
“That will be part of the challenge going into Spring Training. I only know three of the guys on the staff, as far as Lester, Pat, and Max, so everyone will be a learning experience for me and that starts with video, that starts with conversations with them, conversations with Jim [Hickey] and Davey [Martinez] and Yan [Gomes].
“Yan, I’ll probably rely on the most as far as trying to figure out what makes these pitchers tick, and I think me and him are going to have a really great working relationship.”
His new manager, who was a bench coach in Chicago when Avila played for the Cubs, said that he’s confident the experienced backstop will get up to speed quickly in his new home.
“I really believe that,” he said, in explaining how the shared duties behind the plate with Yan Gomes would work. “I had Alex in Chicago and he does a great job, he really does with the pitchers. He handles everybody really well, so I don’t think it’s going to be an issue with him catching anybody, whether it’s left-handed or right-handed, so what I would like to do is — obviously Alex is a left-handed batter, against a righty, if we do need to give Yan a day off he’ll catch that day.
“We’ll figure all this stuff out as we get moving, but it’s nice to have both those guys. They’re both veteran catchers, which I like a lot.
“I know that Alex had Jon Lester over there [in Chicago], he caught Max a lot [in Detroit], so it’s nice that he’s familiar with some of these guys, and he’s getting familiar with all the guys.”
Gomes, who shared catching duties fairly evenly with Kurt Suzuki (now with the Angels) in 2019-20, is expected to get the bulk of the starts, with Avila more of a true backup. Gomes said he is excited about getting to know his former divisional rival in the American League Central better as they work to get ready for the start of the 2021 campaign.
“It’s actually kind of similar as Kurt,” Gomes explained of the process of getting on the same page with his new partner.
“We played against each other for quite a few years when [Avila] was in Detroit and I was in Cleveland, so we’ve always built that relationship. We’ve known each other for a long time.
“As soon as we signed him I tried to get in contact with him and just kind of get to know him kind of get that little awkward stage of the first week of spring out of the way.
“I feel like we’ve kind of hit it off right away. We knew what our job is supposed to be like, we have a tremendous pitching staff, and I look forward to bouncing ideas off of him.”