Just Waiting... and Waiting, and Waiting:
Waiting for some good news on the four Washington Nationals who remain on the COVID-IL right now? So is Davey Martinez, but he suggested in his pregame press conference in LA’s Dodger Stadium on Sunday that some of the players who are still quarantining following an exposure to the virus could join the club on the next stop of their road trip, which continues in St. Louis today.
“We are waiting for clearance,” the skipper explained. “So until we have clearance, I don’t know anything yet, but I’m hopefully that they will get clearance within the next 24 hours, so that would be a good thing.”
If any of them get cleared, would they then be able to jump through the logistical/protocol hoops to join the team in time to take on the Cardinals?
“Possibly, we hope, yeah,” Martinez said.
For now, Josh Bell, Josh Harrison, Kyle Schwarber, and Jon Lester wait for word that they are cleared to return.
What are the position players doing to stay in shape while they wait? [ed. note - “We’ll get to Lester in a minute.”]
“They’ve been swinging in front of the mirror,” Martinez said.
“We talked to them about watching games and emulating their swings and get their timing by watching pitchers, so they’ve been doing that and they got batting cages — some have got little nets so they can hit off the tee and stuff, but they’ve been working out, they’ve been running, they’ve been throwing, so we’ll see where they’re at when we get them back and hopefully they’re not too far off when we get them back.”
Lester Will Need Build Back Up:
Jon Lester missed time in Spring Training when he opted to have surgery to remove one of four parathyroid glands, and unfortunately he appears (by process of elimination, without confirmation of the fact) to have contracted COVID-19 as well, which, well everyone was a bit concerned.
“At first it was tough,” Martinez said of Lester’s reaction to the medical issues thus far in his first season in D.C., after signing a 1-year/$5M free agent deal this winter. “And as we went through the process, I told him, ‘Hey, look, there’s plenty of baseball. You’re going to help us.’ For me, thank goodness that he’s healthy. Cause that was a bit of a concern with everything he’s been through in the past, but he feels good. So I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll put all this behind us, and you’ll come back when you’re ready to go, we’ll get you back on the mound and you’re going to help us win a lot of games.”
At this point, however, having not thrown in competitive action since leaving West Palm Beach, Lester is going to need work to build back up.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “We’re going to have to — for me with him, because of what he dealt with in Spring Training we tried to build him up, and then now he missed some time. We’re going to have to get him build back up. We’ll probably send him to Fredericksburg as soon as we get some clearance and have him throw there, maybe throw a couple bullpens, a sim game or two, or whatever he needs to feel like he’s ready to go. But we want to make sure that when he comes back that he’s ready.”
Lester has continued to work out as much as he can while he waits to get cleared, of course, but that’s not going to be enough for him to just jump right in.
“He’s been actually doing a lot of strengthening core workouts,” Martinez said, “simulating throwing. He actually has thrown a little bit I know in the yard, but like I said, for right now we just got to get him back on the mound and get him built up.”
Lucroy Getting Close To 10 Years Service Time:
For an MLB player, reaching 10 years of service time is kind of a big deal, and Jonathan Lucroy, who’s closing in on that mark, is adding to his total service team with each day spent with the Nationals (or any other MLB club).
Martinez, who’s currently rolling with three catchers (Yan Gomes, Alex Avila, and Lucroy) on his roster, was asked on Sunday if the veteran backstop’s service time is a consideration as they make decisions going forward.
“He’s pretty close,” the fourth-year skipper (and veteran of 16 major league seasons) said.
“That’s a good spot to be in, get those 10 years. But for me, we’re just going to have to look at how this is all going to work out. He’s going to catch again today, catch Max [Scherzer]. I like the way he caught [Scherzer] the other day.
“You’ve got [Clayton] Kershaw on the mound, who’s left-handed, he’s been swinging the bat well, so he’s going to get an opportunity to play today.
“We’ll just have to see what happens. Ten years is a good number. But for me it’s he’s had an unbelievable career — I’m not saying his career is ending — because, I think he’s got tons of more in him, but we’ll see what happens.”
And anyway, Martinez said, he’s enjoying having three catchers available right now.
“I like it, because you can pinch hit, you know, yesterday we pinch hit Lucroy in the game, knowing that we still had Avila in case something happened to Gomes.
“We can do those kind of things, so it’s kind of nice to have those three guys back there.
“Plus too I know Yan has played some first base as well, I know Lucroy took some ground balls yesterday at first base as well. We’ll see how this thing all pans itself out here shortly.”