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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Wander Suero being close to a return; driving in runs; Ryan Zimmerman & Josh Bell

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s pregame presser before last night’s game...

Wondering When Wander Will Return?:

Wander Suero made his first appearance in a minor league game since back in 2018 this past Sunday, when the 29-year-old reliever met the Washington Nationals’ new Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, in Allentown, PA, where they took on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Suero apparently wasn’t thrilled with the rehab assignment.

“He’s anxious to get back,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said on Sunday. “He ... didn’t want to go down, let’s put it that way. But we got to get him an inning or two and see how he does.”

Suero gave up a walk, a hit, and two runs in an inning of work.

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

“He threw the ball well,” Martinez said when asked for an update on Tuesday afternoon.

“A little erratic the first couple hitters, and then he settled down. I think that’s just all being back out there and facing hitters again. But he threw the ball well.

“I had a good conversation with [Red Wings’ manager] Matt Lecroy, and he said [Suero] felt totally normal, he had no complaints. He came in and said he felt really good. We talked to the trainer down there and he also said that he had no complaints after the game. He said he felt fine, so we just want to make sure that we get eyes on him today, he sees the doctor today and then we’ll go from there.”

Suero returned to D.C. before the series opener with the Phillies last night.

“Wander is with us today,” Martinez said.

“He’s going to get examined by the doctor. He’s going to go out there and get his workout and if everything goes well, we’ll see about maybe activating him, either tomorrow or the next day.”

Suero appeared in eight of the team’s first 12 games this season, and Martinez said he’s eager to get the oft-used reliever back.

“He knows how much I use him. Everybody knows that. So it’s good to have him, especially when he’s throwing the ball well.”

Swing Early and Often?:

Davey Martinez talked in his pregame Zoom call with reporters about the club’s inconsistent offensive output over the first month plus and the need to get the bats going, so the club is able to make a run and get out of the basement in the NL East.

“We’re into May now and we just got to start producing runs consistently,” Martinez said as he discussed mixing things up a bit in his lineup for the series opener with the Phillies.

‘We show glimpses of us coming out of it and then we play a couple games where we don’t hit as well.

“We got to start swinging the bats consistently, start driving in runs when we’re supposed to, and hopefully today it will start.”

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Asked to diagnose the issues leading to the inconsistency, Martinez pointed to the club’s seeming reluctance to offer at pitches early in the count.

“When I look back,” he said, “we’re taking a lot of fastballs early in the count. We really are. So I think we’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive in the strike zone. And like I’ve said before, we got a lot of guys that past history have taken their walks as well. So we’ve got to stop swinging at bad pitches and get a ball in the strike zone and be aggressive with guys on base. I’ve said this before, and I look, and when you’ve got guys on base, pitchers, they want to get ahead, and usually the first two pitches are the best pitches to hit, so let’s be ready to hit them.”

Going into play on Tuesday, the Nationals’ .246 AVG as the team was 7th highest in the big leagues, but their .215 AVG with runners in scoring position was 27th.

And the team that’s been a patient one in past seasons, wasn’t walking much either, with their 32 walks that point in 2021 22nd in the majors, and their 11.9% BB% 10th among MLB’s 30 teams.

“This is something we talk about a lot,” Martinez said, “... we got guys in the middle of our lineup that will take their walks. They haven’t. They haven’t yet. And I’m waiting for them.

“To me that’s a good sign when they start taking their walks, it’s a good sign of things to come and they’ll start getting pitches to hit.

“If they’re going to walk you, take your walk and get on for the next guy.”

Don’t Hold Your Breath For Everyday Zim:

You can’t be blamed for looking at the way Josh Bell has struggled, and the way Mr. Walk-off Ryan Zimmerman is swinging it when he’s in the lineup, and wondering if the team might be better off with the club’s first first-round pick playing every day, but Davey Martinez isn’t one of the people thinking about making a move. Mainly, he explained, because he believes that Bell is getting close to where the club needs him to be. But could Zimmerman do it if it did, a some point come to that?

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“Hopefully we don’t have any injuries, but if something were to happen I think he could play 4-5 times a week,” Martinez said. “I talk to him all the time and it will be hard for him to play seven days a week, but if we could run him out there 4-5 times and give him days off in-between, I think it’s possible. But once again, I have these conversations with him, and he’s enjoying what he’s doing. He’s a great teammate, great leader, he pulls for everybody, and he’s readily available to come off the bench or play once or twice or even three times a week. So, and he’s doing well at it. he’s a great guy to have around, like I said, he’s our captain, and he works hard every day to keep himself ready.”

Martinez was asked more directly if there was a point that they would make a move if Bell continues to struggle.

“Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you that right now,” he said. “I mean, I know what Josh Bell can do, he’s done it in the past, so he’s going to get an opportunity to play. It’s still early for him. I think he’s getting close, I really do. The other day he hit a bullet to left-center field. So that’s a good sign.

“They’re both going to get a chance to play, obviously, but you know, we signed Josh Bell to be our first baseman, and he’s our first baseman,” he said. “I will get Zim in there when I deem it possible or we feel that it’s the right matchup, but I know — I believe in Josh and I know what he can do. So, we got to get him going. I said this before. We’re not going to win without him, he’s a big part of our lineup. And I truly believe that.”