Finding Fedde; Rainey’s Return:
Before the second of three with the Cincinnati Reds in D.C. on Wednesday, Washington’s skipper, Davey Martinez, provided updates on both Erick Fedde, who tested positive for COVID-19 during the last road trip, and Tanner Rainey, who was identified through contact tracing as having been in close contact with Fedde. Both ended up quarantined in Chicago, where the Nationals were playing when the test on Fedde came back, but both are now in Washington again.
“[Fedde is] still following protocol, he’s still in quarantine,” Martinez said. “Until we hear back from MLB and the city of D.C. he’s going to be in quarantine.”
While the 28-year-old is waiting to get cleared to return, there’s not much he can do work-wise to stay sharp.
“He’s working out as much as he can,” Martinez said. “But he’s in quarantine ... so he can’t do anything until we hear back from MLB, or the CDC, and D.C., to see what they will allow him to do — to get back on the field and work out.
“Hopefully in the next few days we’ll know something, but as of right now we can’t do anything about it.”
There isn’t a whole lot Fedde can do to simulate his delivery or mechanics really, and unlike a hitter, he can’t keep swinging or hit off a tee while he’s in quarantine.
“We talk a lot about him going through his mechanics, and he does towel drills,” the skipper explained.
“He does have weights and things that he can work out with, but he can’t do much. When in quarantine, you’re really limited in what you can do. I think it’s been like nine days, eight day or nine days, something like that, so hopefully he hasn’t missed much, so as soon as we can get him back we’ll see.”
As for Rainey, he was cleared to rejoin the team, now he’s just working to get sharp after the time out while he quarantined as well.
“Tanner threw a bullpen yesterday, an extended bullpen,” Martinez said, later explaining that it was a 32-pitch throwing session.
“I’m going to see how he came out of that today. We’ll kind of keep an eye on him, but if everything went well, he’ll probably be activated tomorrow.”
Having been cleared to return, what other hurdles does the reliever have to clear before he is activated?
“I want to talk to him today and see how he feels after the long bullpen,” Martinez said. “If he feels good, he hasn’t really missed that much time, there’s been times that guys in the bullpen, especially in the back end, where they don’t pitch for six or seven days. So I’ll talk to him today, if he feels good today, we possibly could activate him tomorrow. But I want to have that conversation with him.”
You know how the Nationals kept on talking early this season about sticking with it at the plate, how they were making good contact even if hits weren’t falling in? It wasn’t just one or two of the players, though Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber were in that category for quite a while before it started to go their way. The whole team has been making solid contact this season.
In terms of Contact%, defined by Fangraphs as the, “... number of pitches on which contact was made/swings,” the Nationals started play on Wednesday with the 3rd-highest Contact% in the majors (at 76.9%), behind only San Diego’s Padres, 77.6%, and Houston’s Astros, who have an 81.7% Contact% on the season.
The Nationals have the 5th-highest Z-Contact% (number of pitches on which contact was made on pitches inside the zone/swings on pitches inside the zone), at 85.5%, and they’re not swinging and missing much, with the 3rd-lowest SwStrk% (SwingingStrike % - swings and misses/total pitches), at just 10.4% before play on Wednesday.
What does their manager see in those numbers? To be fair, he was just asked about their Contact%, in a series of questions which also touched on the fact that they aren’t taking that many walks as a team this season (128 total, 29th of 30 teams, with a 7.8% BB%, 27th).
“I really believe when these guys are going good, when they make contact, or they swing, they’re going to put the ball in play,” Martinez said, “and they’re really good at that, so like I said, walks come when pitchers fall behind and stuff, right now guys are trying to get ahead, and as a hitter — we tell our pitchers to be aggressive, be aggressive early in the strike zone, especially with runners in scoring position. So, and we got a lot of guys that when they do that, they make contact, they put the ball in play, and so that’s something that we’ve been really good at. I don’t want to take away their aggressiveness, but yet, my biggest thing is to understand what their strike zone is and make sure you get a ball you can handle that you can hit and hit hard.”
So the lack of walks overall isn’t a concern?
“I mean, if the ball is in the strike zone I want these guys to be aggressive and try to hit it, so, and these guys are getting balls to hit.”
“If they’re pumping strikes at us,” he added, “I want these guys to be aggressive, and hit the balls that are in the strike zone and hit them hard.”
Getting García In?:
Luis García, 21, was called back up from Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday, after Victor Robles was placed on the 10-Day IL on Sunday, and Martinez said he would try to get the infielder, who played in 40 games in 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, into the lineup eventually in the coming days if he could find a spot. He didn’t have García in the lineup for either of the first two games, however. Will he find a game to get him in there before Robles returns?
“We’ll see,” Martinez said. “Right now Josh Harrison is playing well and I want to continue to play him. So, a lot of it has to do — maybe we want to do something else — [Andrew] Stevenson has swung the bat well as of late, so against right-handed pitching right now we’re doing okay. So we’ll see when I can get him in. But yesterday he was available to pinch hit, to go in and play defense. We had options to do things if we were to tie the game.
“He understands his situation right now, and his role right now. Like I said, I’d like to get him in, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get him in today or tomorrow, but we’ll see how things play out.”