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Washington Nationals’ Spring Training 2021: Notes and quotes from Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez...

Josh Bell. Jon Lester. Kyle Finnegan. Tanner Rainey. We’ve got updates on all four from Mike Rizzo & Davey Martinez.

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Both Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked with reporters on separate Zoom calls on Monday, and with the news coming fast these days, not everything they discussed made it into an article, so we’ve put together a quick post that collects some of the topics that were discussed that we didn’t get to in one place...

Jon Lester Is Back:

Jon Lester had surgery to remove his thyroid gland on Friday in New York, and he was back in West Palm Beach, FL on Sunday/Monday, rejoining the team and starting to ramp it back up as he prepares for his first season as a National.

“I saw him,” Martinez said on Monday morning. “I spoke to him. He’s upbeat. Excited to be back. He’s getting some work done with trainers today. They’ll evaluate him, they’ll see where he’s at. But he looks good. I joked around with him and told him, I said, ‘You look really young.’ But he said he feels really good.”

Lester, reportedly, still has some soreness around the area of the incision, but his manager said they’ll work him back in slowly and then start to build him back up.

Photo © and courtesy of Washington Nationals.

“As soon as the trainers say that he’s able to go out and start throwing and pitching again we’ll get him out there as soon as we can,” Martinez explained.

“But he was ramped up pretty good, so I’m hoping it won’t take him long. We just got to wait until the soreness clears and he’s ready to go.”

“I saw him today, so he’s here in camp,” Rizzo said in his own Zoom call on Monday.

“He looks good, energetic, said he feels good. I think we’re going to start him off slowly.

“He’s going to do a bunch of exercises, we’re going to run him through his paces, and then we’re going to hand him off to the pitching people and ramp him up to get prepared to pitch this season. That’s really the only other update I have other than he looks great, he’s sounding really upbeat and excited.”

Rainey Resumes Throwing:

Tanner Rainey was dealing with what his manager described as soreness, “up in his collar bone area,” which led to the team shutting him down briefly earlier this month.

The “minor muscle” strain is apparently healing up, because the hard-throwing reliever is set to start throwing again.

MLB: Washington Nationals-Workouts Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

“Rainey is throwing a bullpen today,” Rizzo said yesterday. “He looks and feels very good he said. We anticipate him being ready for Opening Day.”

“We’re getting him back on the mound today,” Martinez added.

“He’s going to throw a bullpen, we’ll see how he feels. He’ll probably throw about 20 pitches or so.

“He’ll probably want to ramp it up, but we want to keep him about 75-80% and see how he’s doing.

“Hopefully it goes well today, if it goes well today he’ll probably have another day or two and we’ll see where he is from there.”

Is Rizzo’s stated hope that Rainey, having been delayed some, will be ready for Opening Day on April 1st realistic? Martinez too said there is reason for hope.

“We’ll evaluate him again today, after he throws his side,” the skipper said, “... but he says he feels fine, he felt great the other day after throwing, so we’ll see how he does off the bump.”

Kyle Finnegan’s Fine:

In his last full season of baseball in 2019, Kyle Finnegan, pitching in the Oakland A’s system, gave up three home runs in 50 23 IP, and in 2020’s 60-game campaign, the right-hander, in the majors with Washington after signing a major league deal with the Nationals last winter, gave up two homers in 24 23 IP. So far this spring? Finnegan has given up three home runs in three innings of work. His manager is not worried. It’s Spring Training.

[ed. note - “Remember, you’re really not supposed to put stock in ST stats. Or September stats. Even though you always do it. We tried to tell you. Jake Noll for President!”]

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

“[Finnegan is] just right now [struggling with] his location a little bit, he’s throwing the ball really well, throwing the ball hard, but I think it’s more location for him,” Martinez said.

“I know he’s working on a different grip with his changeup and he’s got to perfect his slider a little bit, but I think Finnegan is going to be fine. I really do.”

“This is why we have Spring Training,” he continued, “but the ball is coming out of his hand really well. I don’t want him to read into the numbers.

“I just want him to go out there and keep perfecting his secondary pitches, knowing that he’s got a really good fastball.”

Josh Bell Ringing:

We’ll end this one on a fun note. Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office traded for first baseman Josh Bell this winter, and through five games the slugger is 4 for 11 (.364 AVG), with two doubles, a home run, three walks, and four Ks. Rizzo isn’t going to judge Bell on five games’ worth of at bats, or on what he’s seen from him defensively at first base so far.

But he’s happy with the middle-of-the-order bat he got from Pittsburgh’s Pirates.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

“He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason,” Rizzo said of the work Bell put in before he got to West Palm Beach for the start of Spring Training.

“I’m not going to judge Josh Bell [defensively] in four or five Spring Training games nor will I judge his offensive improvement in in four or five games.

“These guys are in preparation mode. They’re getting ready, and when the bell rings April 1st he’ll be ready offensively and defensively, and I’ll feel comfortable that he’s over there.”

Did he do that “bell rings on April 1st” thing intentionally?

“Very unintentional, but I may use it in the future,” Rizzo said.