Davey Martinez said the reports from Rochester were positive when he asked about how 21-year-old infielder Luis García was doing with Washington’s top minor league affiliate before the Nationals called him up this past Tuesday to take injured outfielder Victor Robles’s spot on the big league roster.
“He’s doing well,” Martinez said. García has a .235/.293/.426 line, a double, and four homers in 17 games and 75 plate appearances with the Triple-A Red Wings this season, after he got a shot at making his major league debut last summer in the 60-game COVID campaign. He has, apparently, been maturing with age as well.
“Part of his growing up is maturity,” Martinez said, “and learning how to play the game every day up here at the big league level. But he’s done well. [Rochester manager] Matt Lecroy has got him. I talked to Matt, he said he’s done well, he’s limiting the mental mistakes a lot down there, and he’s playing really well.”
In 40 games and 139 plate appearances in the Nationals’ lineup last season, García put up a .276/.302/.366 line with six doubles and two home runs on a -0.4 fWAR run. He was filling in for an injured Starlin Castro, and got the opportunity earlier than he likely would have in any other situation, but the club still has high hopes for him as part of the future infield in D.C., so Martinez said the opportunity to get a look at him was part of the team’s decision-making process.
“It’s about also putting eyes on him because he’s done well and he’s a very important part of our future, and see where he’s at,” the skipper explained.
“And it’s kind of nice to get him out here and get him working with [Bench and infield coach Tim Bogar]. And like I said, we’ll get him in some games here soon.”
García didn’t get into the starting lineup in either of the first two games after he was called up, but his manager said the infielder understood what was what right now.
“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.”
García’s first opportunity came in a pinch hitting role in the bottom of the sixth inning in the continuation of Wednesday night’s suspended game. He fell behind 1-2, spit on a slider low in the zone, 2-2, then sent another breaking ball from Cincinnati Reds’ righty Ryan Hendrix, and out right on a line and into the corner, allowing him to take third for his first career triple in the majors, before he scored on Trea Turner’s RBI single (for what ended up being the winning run).
“He battled,” Martinez said when asked about the at bat, and García’s two-strike approach in particular.
“Actually, he got really wide. His stance got really wide in that two-strike approach, which I liked a lot, and he was able to put a breaking ball in play, and got a triple out of it. A big at bat in that moment right there. I really liked his at bat, so — he’s been working, I know he’s been working hard, like I said, I talked to Matt Lecroy about him and he’s starting to do the little things every day right and starting to mature a little bit. It was a good at bat for him, a good day for him. We got him in there so hopefully he keeps it going now.”
“I was very excited to bat today,” García said through a translator in a post game Zoom call.
“Very thankful to God I got the opportunity,” he added. “I’m always here and excited to help the team win. Very excited to stay positive.”
What was he thinking as he legged out that triple?
“My thoughts were just to get to third,” García said. “The whole time I’m thinking, ‘How can I get to third?’ I stay very positive. And again, I’m just thinking, ‘Get to third.’”
García also talked about his own two-strike approach when asked how he’s tried to refine it.
“It’s very important,” he said.
“For me, when you [get] to two strikes, it’s a war, and you’ve got to win it. So, you got to stay energetic, you’ve got to stay positive, and it’s important to come across successfully.”
As for any tweaks that he’s made to improve his two-strike approach?
“It really hasn’t changed much, I can say, since I was very young,” García said, “... it’s just kind of about being patient and waiting for my ball and getting low, so I wouldn’t say I’ve changed much.”
“I get a little wider and I go down a little lower. I’m really looking at wherever the ball is going so that I can make sort of that contact that I want for it to go where I need it to.”