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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Stephen Strasburg; Bullpen talk; the rally helmet + more...

Highlights and odd notes from Davey Martinez’s pregame press availability on Saturday...

We Want Stras! We Want Stras! Wait? A Bullpen Camera?:

Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen session in Nationals Park on Saturday morning. He’s on the 10-Day IL with right shoulder inflammation, but the 32-year-old, ‘09 No. 1 overall pick is working his way back, slowly but surely.

“He’s out there right now,” Davey Martinez told reporters in the manager’s pregame Zoom call with reporters. “[Pitching Coach] Jim [Hickey] is with him. I was watching a little bit of it in my office, I’ll find out what’s going on after he throws. He looked pretty good. He just got started throwing, but we’ll see how he feels after the session today.”

That’s good new— wait? Martinez was watching the bullpen session from his office? How’s that work? Is there a bullpen feed he can watch in his office? Some closed circuit action?

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

“Oh, yeah,” the manager said enthusiastically.

Reporters wondered if there was a camera in the press box so he could watch them type away?

“I can sit there [in his office] and actually I can just record everything and watch replays, and so I see everything. I see everything,” Martinez said, referring to the feed from the bullpen, but not denying the presence of a camera in the press box. [ed. note - “There isn’t one, we’re just kidding. At least we don’t think there is...”]

But back to business: Is he encouraged by what he’s seen from Strasburg?

“I’m very encouraged. Obviously we’ve still got some ways to go, it’s his first bullpen, but like I said, we’ll see how he feels after he throws today and then we’ll go from there.”

Bullpen Chatter - Hand and Rainey:

Brad Hand has six days off between an appearance against St. Louis in the nation’s capital and his scoreless inning of work against Toronto in Dunedin, FL this past Wednesday, and after an off day on Thursday, he tossed a scoreless ninth on Friday in a 0-0 game against Miami.

When it went to extras, Hand, who’d thrown just 12 pitches in the ninth, went back out for the tenth, and got through a seven-pitch frame in which one (unearned) run scored, but a two-run Kyle Schwarber walk-off home run in the bottom of inning earned the Nationals and Hand the win.

Was there any concern, Davey Martinez was asked before Saturday’s game with the Marlins, using Hand for two innings and then potentially having him unavailable for the second of three with the Fish in D.C.?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“Yeah, I definitely, like we’ll sit down and talk to [Hand] today,” he explained. “The good thing is he didn’t throw very many pitches, which is kind of nice. So we’ll see how he is. What helps with us with that is, one, we haven’t really used him much because of circumstances, two, is we have all these days off, so if we did use him today he’d definitely probably be off tomorrow, which gives him two days. But if we don’t happen to use him today, we use him tomorrow and he gets another day off on Monday. We look at all that stuff. So he’s going to go out and play catch today and he’ll let me know how he feels.

“If he’s not available, he’s not available. He did a great job yesterday for us, so we got some other guys who can pitch in the ninth inning if need be.”

Before Hand took the mound on Friday night, Tanner Rainey tossed a scoreless, 11-pitch frame against the Fish, completing his sixth scoreless outing in his last seven appearances as he’s rounded into form after dealing with a muscle strain around his collar bone during Spring Training.

What has Rainey done to change his fortunes after a rough spring and start to the regular season?

“For me it’s just location,” Martinez said.

“His location has been a lot better, and his slider has been a lot better. He’s got good depth on his slider, his spine-rate has been a lot better on his slider. So, it’s just — we knew he was going to get better.

“His velo is touching 96, and I assume that that is going to get better as we get going. You got to remember, he missed a lot of Spring Training as well, so we’re kind of building him back up and getting him to where he needs to be. But his slider has been so much better the last few outings, and that helps a lot.”

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

As the manager sees it, some of the guys who missed time this spring, like Rainey, or at the start of the season, like Hand, who was placed in quarantine as part of the COVID crisis that hit the team, are finally getting to where they want to be.

“Absolutely. Like I said, we had some guys who missed a lot of Spring Training, they’re just getting back and getting built up,” he said.

“We had some guys, as you know, with our COVID situation, they seemed to start coming around a little bit better.

“Not only Rainey, but I’m watching Brad Hand, and the way he’s been throwing the ball. It’s been really, really good. His spin rate on his [slider] is awesome. And that’s just him getting out there and pitching a little bit more, hopefully we get him out there pitching quite a bit more if we start winning games consistently. But yeah I’m starting to see these guys really come around and doing what we know that they’re capable of doing.”

“Rally helmet. Rally helmet right there. Caps. Big hockey team.” - KS:

Kyle Schwarber was awarded the Washington Capitals’ hockey helmet after hitting his 2nd walk-off home run of the season in his first year with the Nationals, and he proudly wore it during Friday night’s post game Zoom call.

“Rally helmet. Rally helmet right there. Caps. Big hockey team. Rally helmet. Got to love it,” Schwarber sort of explained when asked about the helmet.

“I guess it just came out today,” Schwarber added. “It just made its first appearance today, but happy to be wearing it, especially right now. Big win.”

So where did the helmet come from?

“The Capitals,” Davey Martinez said on Saturday. “They sent it to me in Spring Training.”

“They sent it — their players wear our helmet during their Player of the Game [ceremony], they wear one of our helmets. So they sent it to me and I thought yesterday was the perfect time to break it out, and the perfect guy to wear it, Schwarber, so I gave it to him and he was all excited about wearing it for the post game. So, you’ll probably see it a little bit more, hopefully.”