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Washington Nationals’ Spring Training 2021: Notes and Quotes from Davey Martinez...

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Why hasn’t Ryan Zimmerman been playing? What’s next for Armando Cruz? Sam Clay with a Blaze Foley reference? And ST schedule talk...

We’re back with yet another edition of our semi-regular Spring Training notes and quotes for the Washington Nationals, where we share news that likely won’t end up in a separate story. It’s a nice, quick way to keep you up to date on all things Nationals, without boring you with all of that annoying stat talk and context-y stuff. [ed. note - “He always does this, then puts context in. No idea why he’s trying that cool guy, ‘Context and stats are teh stupid,’ thing.”] But really, we usually include some context for some stuff. [ed. note - “And again.”] We’ll see. [ed. note - “You always do!”] Read on to find out.

Here are some of the highlights from manager Davey Martinez’s pregame Zoom call with reporters on Saturday...

Zim Still Hates ST:

Ryan Zimmerman is not alone in not really liking Spring Training, but after a year off the 36-year-old, 15-year veteran could probably use some at bats to knock the rust off. Zim started out strong, playing four games in the first eight days of March. [ed. note - “‘We didn’t play him in February. It was March 1st, so we’re into March,’ manager Davey Martinez joked after penciling Zimmerman into the lineup for the first time this spring.”] Zimmerman hasn’t had any Grapefruit League at bats since March 8th, however, so when he wasn’t listed on last night’s lineup card, a reporter asked if he was okay.

Houston Astros v Washington Nationals Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

“He’s good,” Martinez said. “We’re just — like I said, we’re just treating it very — he got off — he’s played a lot more than normal in Spring Training, but he’ll be back in there here soon.

“But he’s been taking his swings and working out and stuff like that, so he’s good.” Good to know.

Next Gen Nationals:

The Nationals signed 16-year-old shortstop Armando Cruz to a club-record-tying $3.9M signing bonus back in January, and when MLB Pipeline’s scouts released their list of the organization’s Top 30 prospects this week, the now-17-year-old infielder was ranked 7th overall in the system.

Cruz, MLB Pipeline’s scouts wrote, “... was arguably the best defender at any position in this year’s international group,” and his footwork, glove, arm, and range were highlighted, but they did note that, “[t]he bat remains the big question. His promising hands translate fine to the box and he could be an average hitter in time, though he doesn’t project to hit for much power.”

Big league skipper Davey Martinez was asked on Saturday afternoon how the team will take stock of what they have over the next few years as they develop the infielder.

“We’ll definitely have plenty of eyes on him,” Martinez said.

“But we’ll get him here and get him to the organization, get him around other guys. The biggest thing is to keep these guys humble.

“But yet let them be themselves, let them develop. He’s so young. And just let them go out there and play and then help him develop but he’s got to buy into our system, which he will. My understanding is that he’s a really good kid. And he’s excited and ready to play. So we’ll keep eyes on him and just kind of watch him grow and develop and mature.”

Feed the Pigeons Some Clay:

Signed to a major league deal after six seasons in the minors with the Minnesota Twins who drafted him in the 4th Round in 2014 but never called him up, Sam Clay has three scoreless innings in the books early this spring. How has he looked in those appearances, in which he has walked no one, struck out one batter, and held hitters to a .111 AVG?

St. Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“He’s throwing the ball really well,” Martinez said. “I like what I’ve seen so far. When we got him and we did all this stuff on him, he’s a ground ball pitcher, and so far that’s who he is. I mean, he’s thrown some ground balls here. He keeps the ball down for the most part, sinks it, and he’s got a really good breaking pitch. I don’t want him to change anything. I mean, he’s starting to feel comfortable here. I talked to him and he really likes what we do here. But he’s doing well. I can see him helping us here soon. So I just want him to go out there, relax, keep doing what he’s doing, and throw strikes.”

Will Clay work his way into the Opening Day bullpen? After parting ways with veteran right-hander Jeremy Jeffress earlier this month, Martinez did say that he thought there was still a number of pitchers to choose from with a spot Jeffress was likely to earn now open.

“We’ve got a couple of left-handers right now that I really like. We can actually look at some of those guys and be able to keep maybe one more guy other than [Brad] Hand.” Is Clay the one?

Astros, Marlins, Mets, Cardinals:

Astros, Marlins, Mets, Cardinals, Marlins, Mets, Astros, Cardinals, Mets, Astros, Cardinals, and Marlins. You may have noticed a pattern, or at least a lack of variety.

Martinez’s club will have to wait for the start of the regular season to get some variety in their opponents, but for the rest of the month it will be those four teams above mixed up.

But just them. Is that an issue? Especially when two of the clubs are in your division?

“You want to play other teams, yeah, absolutely,” Martinez said on Saturday afternoon. “But under the circumstances the fact that we’re playing games I think is pretty good. We’re getting to face other teams, regardless of if it’s the same team. But we get to face other teams.”

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

There are, of course, drawbacks to the scheduling.

“The annoying thing is it seems like every five days we’re playing the Cardinals. Every five days we’re playing the Mets,” Martinez explained. “So we kind of get the same pitchers over and over again. I know the other day the Cardinals used [John] Gant in a B-game to start instead of playing him in an A-Game, so but it’s just the way it is.

“I’m just glad that, like I said, these guys are getting at bats, they’re playing other teams, we’re playing innings.

“Soon here this week we’ll start playing games where there won’t be any rollovers anymore, it’s nine innings, three-batter minimum will be in effect. You’ll start seeing our pitchers hit here soon. I would believe probably in the next couple days, we’ll start letting our starters get at bats, so there will be some kind of normalcy in our games.”