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Washington Nationals news and notes: Davey Martinez talks Josh Bell & timing; Jon Lester & his next step, and Juan Soto...

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Highlights from Davey Martinez’s pregame Zoom call on Wednesday to get you through today’s off-day...

Waiting For Bell’s Timing:

Josh Bell entered play on Wednesday mired in an 0 for 17 slump, with a .109/.192/.217 line in 52 plate appearances this season. Bell told reporters after going 0 for 4 with two Ks in the first of two with the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida, he felt like he was “really close” to being where he wants to be offensively.

“All it takes is one hit and the flood gates can open up,” Bell said, “... and I can start having more and more consistent, good at bats.”

His manager, a tireless supporter of all his players, said on Wednesday afternoon that he is constantly talking to Bell and letting him know that all the hard work now will pay off in the future.

“We talk a lot,” Davey Martinez said. “I appreciate what he does. He works hard, and he’s working hard to get his swing right.

“He’s gone through these spurts. I’ve known that, and like I said yesterday, when he starts feeling it and he gets hot, he’s going to carry this team for a while. So, we just got to, like I said, we’ve got to get him going. Not by any means do I want to take him out of the lineup.

“He knows that, I’ve talked to him about it. He’s going to play. I trust him. I understand what he’s going through, as a player I’ve been there myself, it just takes one good day to get him out of it. And I talked to him about just not trying to get seven hits in one at bat, just take one pitch at a time and just square some balls up and you’ll be surprised how you just come right out of it, so I just moved him to ease his mind a little bit. Just let him go out there and have some fun.”

Bell, 28, was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates this winter after a disappointing 2020 run in which he put up a .226/.305/.364 line in 57 games and 223 plate appearances. He was only 52 PAs into the season before last night, after a strong spring, and then time off when he went on the COVID-IL before Opening Day. Martinez said that all things considered, he’s handling the slow start well.

“He’s been great,” the manager said.

“He’s been unbelievable. He really has. He’s been pulling for his teammates. He’s great in the clubhouse.

“He’s just been good. Like I said, he’s been working really hard behind the scenes in the cage, during batting practice, to get his swing right. So, it’s just a matter of time.

“He’s only got I think 46 at bats right now. In the next 20 at bats if he goes 7 for 20 he’s right there in the mix of things. But for me it’s about taking one step at a time and going up there and getting that first at bat and trying to hit the ball hard.”

Bell was up to 0 for 19 before he hit an opposite field two-run home run to left-center in the top of the fifth to put the Nationals up 8-0 in what ended up a ?-? win.

Jon Lester Is Coming Soon To A Mound Near You:

We’re still waiting on Jon Lester’s 2021 debut, after he signed a 1-year/$5M deal this winter, had surgery to remove a parathyroid gland this spring, and then ended up on the COVID-IL at the start of the season. He’s still building up arm strength while inching closer to making his first start with his new team.

“He threw,” Martinez said on Wednesday afternoon, offering the latest update on the lefty.

“We’re building him up. We have to make a decision what we want to do next. I mean, I talked to him today and he’s going to go ahead and throw a light bullpen and we’ll see where he’s at from there. We want to make sure that he’s fully ready.

“With that being said, who knows, he might pitch this weekend for us or he might get another start. We’ll determine that probably today after the game or tomorrow.”

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Asked what he needed to see to know Lester was ready for a big league outing, Martinez said, “I just want to make sure that he’s completely healthy. That’s all it is as of right now.

“He threw six innings, but he’s only done it once. We want to make sure that he rebounds right now fully.”

Lester was set to throw a light bullpen yesterday, just to work on his mechanics, and then there will be a decision to make.

“He wants to throw 20-30 pitches and work on some things with his mechanics,” Martinez said.

“When I talk to [GM Mike Rizzo] today we’ll figure out what’s going to transpire in the next couple days, but I want to sit down with him, I want to sit down with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey and just talk about the next few days. We got a day off tomorrow, we’ve got another day off on Monday, so we just want to talk about some different scenarios.”

Juan Soto Still Has To Throw:

Juan Soto went on the 10-Day IL with a left shoulder strain on April 20th, and the 22-year-old slugger is slowly working his way back, though he has not tested the shoulder by throwing.

Soto was able to swing without pain before landing on the IL, and he’s back swinging the bat again, but he’ll have to test the shoulder by throwing the ball at some point.

Thus far he hasn’t thrown.

“No, he has not thrown,” Martinez confirmed. “He hit again today. He has no issues hitting, which is a great sign. The next step would be to get him to start throwing, and that can come — we just want to make sure that when he starts throwing that he’s pain-free. Right now the issue is the throwing, so hopefully he’ll come tomorrow and say he feels pretty good where we can do some light tossing or something like that, but we just want to make sure that when he goes out there and throws that he’s totally pain free and he can get ready to go. We don’t want this to hamper him for the rest of the season.

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

“We want to make sure when he comes back he’s ready to come back and he’s with us for the duration of the season.”

Once he’s able to throw without any issues (and 10 days have passed), Soto will be able to return to the lineup, but he’ll have to pass that final test.

“I would think once we get him to throw and he plays long-toss, we’ll see how he feels the next day,” Martinez explained.

“If he’s not sore we’ll maybe get him to throw to the bases after that and if that happens and he’s not sore then I would say that after talking to him, he might be ready to play, yeah.

“The good thing is that he’s not a pitcher, he’s an outfielder. He doesn’t have to make that many throws per game. So, and the thing that I want to reiterate with him is as long as you throw it to the cutoff man, we’ll be in good shape. Don’t try to overdo it right now until we build that arm strength up.”