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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez talks COVID deaths; positive signs for Nats + more...

Catching up with the latest Nationals news with manager Davey Martinez...

Davey Martinez’s Message:

At the end of his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Friday, Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez asked for a moment to deliver a message to everyone on the call and every person who has lost someone during the coronavirus pandemic. Martinez got emotional as he talked about what he saw on the bus ride to the ballpark in Flushing, Queens, NY.

“I just want to just go out there and honestly just give my condolences to all the people that lost family members and friends throughout this pandemic,” Martinez said.

“I went down, I’m riding the bus, and saw a big cemetery that I have family in myself, and to see all those stones, it was something else, so my condolences to everybody. Thanks.”

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs:

After taking 2 of 3 from the St. Louis Cardinals, for the second time this season, Martinez said before the start of the Nationals’ three-game set with the New York Mets he’s seeing positive signs from his 7-9 (now 7-10) ballclub after their 1-5 start to the 2021 campaign.

“I truly believe that things are trending in the right direction,” Martinez said. “We just beat a pretty good team 2 out of 3, but like I said, it takes all 26 guys to be involved and these guys have put in the effort. We’ll start scoring runs.

“It’s been a see-saw the first two weeks, whether we score runs or we don’t score runs. But the thing too is we’ve faced some pretty good pitching in the first two weeks as well, so I like where we’re headed, and I think it’s just a matter of time before all these guys put it all together.”

This weekend’s three-game set, in which they were facing Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Taijuan Walker, a reporter noted, is not exactly an easy series in terms of the opposing pitching either.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

“They’re very competitive so, we’ve got our hands full, but like I said, we’ve got to trust in the process. I trust in the guys. So we’re going to go out there and battle and compete.”

With opportunities against deGrom likely to be few and far between, Martinez said he knew his club would have to take advantage of situations with runners in scoring position, when they get them, which they’ve struggled to do early (.228 AVG w/ RISP before last night, 21st in the majors).

“It’s early in the season,” Martinez explained.

“I’ve been in this game a long time to know, and I was one of those guys where I was a slow starter most of my career. We just got to get these guys going a little bit. Just move the ball. My biggest thing with runners in scoring positions is just move the ball. Two-strike hitting, just put the ball in play and put the pressure on our opponents, and on the defense. We talk about that a lot, all the time. These guys, they’ll get going and they’ll start driving in some more runs. But we got to stick to our process. These are our guys, and I trust them.”

“They’ll start hitting the ball like they’re capable of doing,” he added.

“You see signs of it throughout these games, now we just need a little bit of consistency.”

They’ll have to hope for better luck against Stroman, because deGrom didn’t give anything up last night...

Lester/Strasburg/Soto/Harris:

Davey Martinez made quick work of the injury updates on Friday afternoon, when he was asked what/if any progress the Nationals’ injured and rehabbing players have made since last time he talked to reporters.

He started with veteran lefty Jon Lester, who had surgery to remove one of four parathyroid glands this spring, before he ended up on the COVID-IL. Lester, 37, has been building up for his 2021 debut for a while now, and he’ll take another step on Sunday, when he throws a sim game at the club’s Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg, VA.

“We’ll try to stretch him out to — we want to get him to maybe six ups, about 90 pitches,” the Nats’ skipper said.

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

And after that? Don’t get ahead of yourself...

“I really want to see how he comes out of this Sunday,” Martinez said, “and then see how he feels on Monday.”

Some other updates? “They’re still building up,” he said, generally.

“Those guy are on the IL, so as soon as we can get them back, they’ll be back. Same thing with Juan [Soto],” who went on the 10-Day IL this week with a strain in his left shoulder.

“Juan feels good, he’s progressing nicely, he’s doing some strength stuff, so like I said, as soon as we can get them to start doing some baseball activity we’ll get them back on the field and hopefully that will be soon.”

Espino and Fuentes: Paolo Espino started in place of Stephen Strasburg back on April 18th, but he hasn’t been used since, though Martinez said he was available out of the bullpen the last few games. He said the same heading into this weekend’s series in Citi Field.

“He’s available today out of the bullpen,” Martinez said on Friday afternoon.

“We’re trying to get — like I said earlier, we’re trying to get through the day, and then we’ve got our three guys set up for this weekend, and we’ll see how it goes. I kind of like him. He can do a lot of different things. I know he’s started, he’s been stretched out, but he can pitch out of the bullpen as well, so for right now, tonight, he’ll be available if we need him, and then we’ll go from there.”

MLB: APR 18 Diamondbacks at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

And what about 23-year-old right-hander Steven Fuentes, who was called up last week to give Martinez a fresh arm in the bullpen. He hasn’t pitched yet (as of Friday afternoon), so the skipper said he wants to get him out there for his MLB debut soon.

“I want to get him in a game. He’s been pitching well at the Alternate Site, so we’ll see how the game goes and if he’s a good matchup we’ll get him in there, and I talked to him about just be prepared to pitch, don’t think you’re just going to sit there and wait for a blowout either way, just be ready to pitch.”

Also, Don’t Worry, Zim’s Fine:

A reporter noted that Ryan Zimmerman didn’t play at all in the three-game series with St. Louis in D.C. this week, after he made pinch hit appearances in three of four with Arizona, and started the finale of the four-game set with the D-backs, but Martinez said there’s no issue with the veteran first baseman.

“He’s totally fine. I’m going to try to get him in one of these games here just to — we had him on deck a few times to pinch hit, it just didn’t work out. But he feels good.

Washington Nationals Workout Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“It’s funny that you say that,” he told the reporter who asked about Zim being MIA over the last few days, “... because the other day I was watching him and he’s taking ground balls at shortstop and taking fly balls in the outfield, I’m like — just shaking my head, like, ‘Woah. He must be feeling really good.”

Uh, why was Zimmerman doing that?

“He said it was a beautiful day out. That day it was like 75°, he said it was such a beautiful day he wanted to run around. So I told him good for him.”

He didn’t throw from the outfield did he?

“No, no, no,” Martinez assured everyone.