A backbone got found in the dinosaur wing:
Davey Martinez, after watching both Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin struggle in their latest outings, talked on Thursday night about needing to get the Nationals’ rotation sorted out.
“As you guys know,” Martinez told reporters, “... our starting pitching has been the backbone here, so we’ve got to get these guys right.”
Martinez watched some footage of Corbin’s rough outing against the Arizona D-backs in the series opener in Nationals Park before his post game Zoom call, and he said he planned on watching some more to see if it was something obvious they could point to that’s led to the left-hander’s early-season woes.
Asked before the second of three with the Diamondbacks in D.C. if Strasburg and Corbin’s issues were weighing on him, the fourth-year skipper said he learned what he could, then turned his attention to Max Scherzer and the second game of the series.
“I thought about it last night,” he said of Corbin’s outing, which saw the southpaw give up a total of six hits, four walks, and 10 runs, nine earned, in two innings on the hill, “... but today my focus is the game at hand and watching Max go out there and compete.
“If Max is Max, we score some runs, we’ve got a great opportunity to go 1-0 today, so my focus is that. I know that Hickey and I were digging into some of Corbin’s stuff.
“I know we’re going to watch Strasburg, but we’ve got to win today. I focus on today.”
Martinez and his coaches did go back and watch film on Corbin after he spoke to reporters on Thursday night, making for a long evening at the ballpark.
“I went home last night at 12:30 [AM],” Martinez said, “watched a bunch of video, so I stayed around all night, talked to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey a little bit, then got up this morning, watched a bunch of different other things, and now when I get here at the ballpark I put those things aside and get ready for today’s game.”
Martinez brushed aside concerns about his sleep habits, noting that he takes a 20-minute nap every day, and explained that he wanted to get a look at Corbin’s outing before it was time to move on to the next game.
“I went home at 12:30, sat around, I wanted to watch videos, and I sat with Henry [Blanco],” the Nationals’ bullpen coach and a former big league catcher, “who’s really good at seeing things as well, so it was him, myself, Hickey stayed around. We’re just trying to see if we can pinpoint anything on some of these guys.
“And then I went home and thought about just a bunch of different things, and the lineup and everything of that. I probably went to sleep around 2:00 [AM].”
Get to know Henry Blanco:
Henry Blanco, 49, played 16 seasons in the majors between 1997-2013, and the catcher and now coach joined the Nationals’ organization as the bullpen coach in 2018, Martinez’s first year on the bench and, the club noted this winter, 2021 is the seventh consecutive season for Blanco working alongside Dave Martinez after Blanco had served as a quality assurance coach for three seasons with the Chicago Cubs, (2015-17), while Martinez was Joe Maddon’s bench coach in the Windy City.
What does Blanco offer in the discussions with Martinez and Hickey (who was the pitching coach in Chicago in 2017 and joined the Nationals this winter), when they watch a pitcher?
“He knows the catcher’s perspective on pitching,” Martinez said. “Which is awesome. He’s caught some unbelievable pitchers in his career, and plus he knows the game as far as calling pitches as well. So, when I sit down with him and he’s watching and we can dissect mechanics and pitches and things of that nature, he helps me a lot.”
Acknowledging that Blanco is a relatively quiet man in the clubhouse, Martinez said that he is also an invaluable resource.
“He’s quiet. He’s a little different. But hey, he’s very knowledgeable, I can you that,” he said.
“When it comes to this game and behind the plate, he knows the game better than anyone back there.”
Blanco is just one of a few former big league catchers on Martinez’s staff, along with third base coach Bobby Sendley and first base coach (and organizational stalwart) Randy Knorr, while Hickey is a former minor league pitcher turned pitching coach in his second career in the game.
“Randy is another guy, I sit down with Randy a lot on the catcher stuff and the pitcher stuff,” Martinez said. “I’ve known Hickey for years, and Hickey is so good with mechanics that I rely on him a lot on mechanics, and he’s so personable, I mean, he believes in the guys that he has. He trusts them. He talks to them and communicates with them, but he’s not afraid to have these tough conversations with these guys either. I’ve seen that with him over the years, and you need a guy like that around.”
Wander Suero’s appearance in Thursday’s series opener with the D-backs in D.C. was his seventh in the club’s first ten games this season, which... is a lot.
His skipper’s aware that the pace he’s setting is unsustainable, but the Nationals’ 29-year-old reliever is apparently always telling the manager he’s good to go.
And Suero does have a 1.42 ERA in 6 1⁄3 IP thus far as well, so the desire to lean on him has to be strong, but really, it’s a lot of work.
“It’s almost every day,” Martinez said, but Suero keeps telling him he wants more.
“He comes out of the game and he looks at me and he says, ‘I’m going back out.’ I go, ‘You’re done, You’re done for today.’
“And then he’ll come today, ‘I’m ready to go, socia.’ And I said, ‘You’re out today.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no.’ I said, ‘You’re out today.’ I said, ‘We need you for 162 games.’
“But having a guy like that is awesome. Because he does, and he goes out there and gives you everything he has every time you put him out there.”