Battle of Los Angeles:
Before the start of the series in Dodger Stadium, the Nationals, who last played a game here in October 2019, you might remember it, and Washington’s skipper Davey Martinez, talked about coming back to the scene of one of the biggest moments of the run to the World Series title that year.
“I came in this morning and sat at my desk and had some really good memories. So, then again, we’ll watch these guys have their ceremony, get their rings, only to wish we were able to get our ceremonies in front of a bunch of fans, 50,000 fans last year, that’s what we missed. For me, it gives us motivation to go out and get another one. And celebrate the right way.”
Joe Ross, who tossed five scoreless innings in the series opener, talked afterwards about his own feelings upon returning to LA.
“[I] didn’t really think about that until someone had mentioned it in conversation prior to the game this morning, we were having breakfast or something,” Ross said. “It’s pretty funny, and honestly, there was a World Series sticker from 2019 in the locker, which I don’t know where that came from, I thought that was kind of ironic*. But it’s always good being here at the pretty historic stadium.”
[ed. note - “* = Ross goes a little Morissette here, it’s not irony, more of a coincidence. Don’t ya think?”]
Getting the Band Back Together:
Yan Gomes, Alex Avila, Brad Hand, and Jordy Mercer hopped a charter flight to LA to join the team in time for the start of the three-game set in Chavez Ravine. All four went on the Injured List before Opening Day after having been identified through contact tracing (we think we can surmise now) as a few of the players who came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“We were able to fly them early this morning,” Martinez told reporters in his pregame Zoom call from LA.
“They’re here,” he said. “They made it safely. They traveled throughout the morning to get here, so they’re on the roster we’ll use them accordingly today.
“Hopefully we don’t need them, and they get some rest and we’ll get them in there tomorrow.”
The club chartered a flight for the players so they could rejoin the team after a week-plus off as they quarantined, but they had to jump through several protocol hoops to get back with the team in time.
“We had to go through MLB, D.C., and also LA protocols as well to get them here, and they cleared all three,” Martinez said, while noting that it wasn’t an easy process to navigate.
“We spent half the day yesterday on our off day trying to figure all this stuff out. And once we got them cleared, last night, it was nice to get those guys going again, get them on a plane, and get them here.”
Lucroy Stays in the Picture:
Jonathan Lucroy was signed when both Yan Gomes and Alex Avila landed on the IL to start the season, and he started two of the first three games, knowing that he might not be with the team for long, but even after the two expected everyday catchers returned to the club, Lucroy remains on the roster, and he started again yesterday.
Martinez said they were taking a cautious approach with the players who were returning to the roster after a week-plus off, so it made sense to keep Lucroy around, and get him back out there.
“I appreciate the fact that they all wanted to be here as soon as possible, but yeah, we got to be smart too,” the skipper explained. “They just flew across the country, so we want to make sure they’re hydrated, and get a little rest in. Like I said, they’re all available, maybe later on to play if need be, but to start them for me would not be a good idea.”
And what happens when Gomes and Avila are good to go again?
“I’m going to sit with [GM Mike Rizzo] after today’s game and come up with a game plan for [Lucroy],” Martinez said.
“But so far, I told you, l like what he’s done. He’s a veteran guy, a guy who understands the game very well, so we’ll come up with something this afternoon and see where we’re at.”
“What the King dreams, Brad Hand builds.”:
Brad Hand signed with the Nationals this winter, agreeing to a 1-year/$10.5M free agent deal with the club. He landed on the IL before the season opener, but was able to get some work in before rejoining the club, throwing down at the Alternate Site in Fredericksburg, Virginia before flying out to LA.
“He’s thrown, and actually we were able to get some of these guys down in Fredericksburg the last couple days,” Martinez said.
“He pitched an inning down there, threw the ball well ... He’s available today if we need him.
“I told him to stay in, get some rest this morning, and we won’t need him till later in the game, so rest up and do what he needs to do to get ready.”
Hand’s last outing in Spring Training took place on March 29th, so he’s been off for a while, but Martinez said he got through the work in Fredericksburg feeling good.
“[He] threw to hitters, threw an inning, he said he felt fine, so these guys will be ready to go.”
Patrick Corbin in LA Too:
Though he didn’t come off the IL, Patrick Corbin flew to LA as well, and though there is no starter for today’s game named yet, it didn’t sound like it would be the lefty getting called on to take the mound in Dodger Stadium.
“No,” Martinez said when asked if Corbin or Jon Lester (still on the IL) were being considered as options for the second of three with the Dodgers (Max Scherzer is starting on Sunday).
“Corbin flew in today,” Martinez added. “We don’t know yet. I know he’s thrown ... but it’s something that, I haven’t yet talked to Corbin. I talked to him briefly on the phone, he said he feels good. He’s been throwing, but we don’t know to what extent, so we’ll see. He’s going to get some work [in] today. He’s going to throw flat ground, we’ll see how he feels.”
So Corbin was cleared to play but not activated for baseball reasons?
“He’s been cleared, but like I said, he thinks that he can — I just want to put eyes on him and see where he’s at and talk to the training staff and see where he’s at.”
Asked how concerned he is with the pitchers rejoining the team, who hadn’t thrown in a while before working in Fredericksburg, Martinez said he would keep a close eye on the pitchers since it has been a while.
“For me, like I said, we got to really keep an eye on them. I don’t want any of these guys coming up hurt. With that being said, we’ll see.
“I know [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey is going to be out there with Corbin today and seeing him throw on flat ground, and see where he’s at. And we’ll go from there. With Brad Hand, you know, I know he’s thrown, he’s faced hitters. He had off yesterday, just played catch, and he’s good to go today. It’s different from a relief pitcher to a starter, because it’s longevity for a starter, where he’s got — hopefully get him up to 75-85 pitches, but we’ll see what happens.”