Tashi delek! We are back with another edition of our Spring Training notes and quotes for your Washington Nationals, where we share news that you need to know that likely won’t end up in a separate story.
It’s a nice, and more importantly, a quick way to keep you up to date on all things Nats, and make use of stuff we transcribed anyway, but without boring you with all of that annoying context, and that pesky stat-based analysis...
[ed. note - “Who told you people hate context and stats? Stop listening to them!”]
But really, we usually include some context and stuff, and some stats too.
[ed. note - “Then why did you just say the complete opposite? What is this, a joke? I don’t get it! And explaining jokes does not make them funnier, ever.”]
Let’s all see what’s up today...
[ed. note - “Let’s... not and say we did. We’re beyond annoyed and we’re sending a note the management of this so-called ‘site.’”]
Here are some of the highlights from manager Davey Martinez’s pregame Zoom call with reporters on Saturday afternoon...
Bad Kind of Rainey:
After working his way back from what was described as soreness in the collar bone area, but mostly behind the scenes in live BP or sim games, reliever Tanner Rainey was finally cleared to go off the mound in Grapefruit League action in Sunday’s matchup with the NY Mets.
“You’ll see Rainey today,” Davey Martinez told reporters in his pregame Zoom call on Sunday morning, as he talked about potential bullpen options should Will Harris (blood clot in right arm) be unavailable for a significant period of time.
“Rainey is going to come in and pitch today,” he explained. “I think he is ready to pitch high-leverage situations in the back of that bullpen as well.”
The plan for Rainey in his 2021 Grapefruit League debut?
“He’s going to go out there and throw one inning,” Martinez said.
“And get him up to probably 20-25 pitches if possible. If he finishes it with 13-14, that’s great, but he’s going to face his three batters and we’ll see how he feels.”
Rainey retired the first batter he faced, via strikeout, then proceeded to walk the bases loaded with three straight free passes in what ended up a 22-pitch, seven-strike outing.
“Obviously timing wasn’t there,” Rainey said afterwards.
“Not making the pitches that I wanted to do. The best thing I can take from it was that it was healthy, pain free, so definitely something to build on.”
“The good news is after he came out of the game he had no issues health-wise,” Martinez said. “I felt like he was — his timing was a little off.”
Will he be ready for Opening Day?
“I don’t want to jump ahead of ourselves. We’ll see how he feels in his next outing and then we’ll go from there,” Martinez said.
Hand’s Velo Not A Concern:
Brad Hand’s fastball velocity dropped in 2020. He was hardly the only pitcher for whom that was an issue in the 60-game season, which started in late July after a quick ramp-up. Hand’s heater dropped from 92.4 MPH average in 2019 to 91.4 MPH (though hitters didn’t take any advantage of the decreased velo, hitting just .152 on the pitch, down from a .270 AVG in the 2019 campaign).
Hand talked shortly after signing with the Nationals about focusing on finding that lost velo this winter.
“I’ve been trying to get that dialed up this offseason,” the veteran reliever said.
“One of my biggest priorities this offseason is to figure out what was going different, why the velocity wasn’t there.”
Hand’s manager told reporters on Sunday morning that they weren’t too concerned with what they’ve seen velocity-wise from the southpaw in Spring Training.
“He started out at 88-89-90, topping at 91, now he was 91-93 yesterday, so we’re getting there. We’re getting there,” Martinez said.
“I think by the end of Spring Training, the adrenaline will start pumping a little bit more, and we might see the 94-95 again.
“My biggest thing with him is strikes, and finding his slider. I mean, for him, that’s a huge key. He’s going to be fine. We got this guy because we know what he can do.
“He competes, he’s a competitor. Love having him at the back end of that bullpen, that’s for sure.”
Bench And Bullpen For Opening Day:
How is Davey Martinez going to set his roster up for Opening Day? With the odd 60-game 2020 season in mind, and the light workload for pitchers last year, will the Nationals bring more pitching north at the start of the season? Could they go with nine pitchers and only four players on the bench? Will it be 8/5?
“We’re still trying to sort all that stuff out,” Martinez told reporters. “Like I said, it all depends on, for me, where our starting pitching is, and what we want to do with them guys moving forward. We have a lot of days off early on in the season, so that’s going to help us out a lot in where we’re at, but we still haven’t made any decisions on which direction we want to go.”
Could they manage with just four players on the bench at the start?
“We’ve done it before,” he said. “Would I like to have another bench guy? Yeah, probably. It makes things a lot easier when you want to make moves late in the game, but like I said, you also don’t want to be short on pitching, so we’ll see which direction we go here in the next 10 days.”