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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on returning to Wrigley; Stephen Strasburg bullpen review + Jim Hickey fixes...

Highlights from Davey Martinez daily media availability...

Davey Played In Wrigley Too!!:

Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester were the talk of the town in Chicago in the series opener on Monday night, with both long-time Cubs, who were members of the 2016 World Series club, welcomed back by fans in Wrigley Field, and the organization they played for from 2015 to 2020.

In the Nationals’ pregame notes for the first game of four in the friendly confines, they also mentioned the six seasons that Starlin Castro played for the Cubs (2010-’15), the year Alex Avila was acquired at the trade deadline (2017), and the time that Davey Martinez spent on the bench the Windy City as Joe Maddon’s bench coach with the Cubbies from 2015-17.

As Martinez reminded reporters in his pregame Zoom call before the second game of their series, he also debuted in the majors in Wrigley Field on June 15, 1986, three years after he was drafted by the Cubs, and he played 288 of his 1,918 career games for Chicago.

Sports Contributor Archive 2019 Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“I always enjoy coming back here, especially in the summertime,” Martinez said.

“A lot of fond memories. My first big league game I ever played was in Wrigley Field, so it brings back a lot of good memories. Love it here. The fans are great. It’s always a good place to play. The stadium is phenomenal. Get to play in that outfield and that ivy. I always tell our players, outfielders, ‘Hey, whatever you do, don’t run into that wall, because it doesn’t give. It’s hard, so make sure you know where that wall is at all times.”

The reception he and his fellow former Cubs received meant a lot to them all.

“It’s great. And you saw yesterday, fans don’t forget. And obviously with Schwarber getting that warm welcome. Lester getting that warm welcome back, it was awesome.”

Can’t See Through Ivy:

Reporters in Wrigley Field saw Stephen Strasburg, who joined the club in Chicago after he started for Triple-A Rochester this weekend in Trenton, NJ, head out on the field Tuesday to throw the bullpen Martinez said would be another step on his way back to the mound in the big leagues, but since the bullpens are located out behind those aforementioned, ivy-covered brick walls, no one could see what went on when the right-hander started to throw.

“The bullpen is behind the wall, so ...,” Martinez teased, “he threw the ball well, very well.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

“Very pleased, so we’ll reevaluate him tomorrow and see how he feels, and then we’ll go from there.”

As for what he did in the bullpen, which followed a 4 13-inning rehab outing, Martinez said that the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick, “threw 34 [pitches]. Like I said, we’ll reassess him tomorrow. We’ll see how he feels and see how he comes out of it today.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.”

How Hickey Helps His Hurlers:

Davey Martinez made some changes to his staff after he signed a long-term deal with the Nationals last year, and one of them was to bring in veteran pitching coach Jim Hickey, with whom he’d worked in Tampa Bay.

“I had an opportunity to get a few guys that I’ve had long relationships with. Guys that I trust,” Martinez said of the moves this winter.

“I worked with Hickey in Tampa. He’s amazing. He knows a lot about the game. Not just about pitching, but about the game itself.”

So, 37 games in, Martinez was asked last night about the job Hickey has done so far with the pitching staff in the nation’s capital.

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

“I mean, like I said, I’ve known Jim for a long time,” the fourth-year skipper said, “but I really enjoy working with him because, one, he’s very poised, I mean, he comes to the park ready to work every day, and he does his due diligence on every pitcher, on every team we face, every hitter.

“He’s constantly working, and the communication between him and I has been awesome.

“I mean, it’s been really, really good, and I appreciate everything that he does, not only for me, but for our pitching staff as well.”

One thing that Hickey excels at, the manager said, is tweaking mechanics and identifying ways to help his staff straighten things out so his pitchers can maximize their abilities.

“He’s very good in mechanics,” Martinez said. “That’s what I really know about him and like about him a lot. He can break down somebody’s mechanics and get them to where they need to be. And that’s always good.

“I know he’s talked to [Erick] Fedde, right from Spring Training, after he got to see him a few times throwing, and he changed a few things and I think Fedde has benefited from that, and he’s done that with quite a few guys already.”