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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Kyle Finnegan going on IL; Josh Bell turning it around + more...

Highlights from Davey Martinez’s daily media availability...


No, not Kyle! Kyle Finnegan went on the 10-Day IL (retroactive to June 21) with what a press release on the move said was a left hamstring strain. Finnegan, 29, has a 3.86 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 17 walks (5.04 BB/9), and 36 Ks (10.68 K/9) in 33 games and 30 13 IP this season, as one of manager Davey Martinez’s favorite options out of the bullpen. So what happened?

“It’s his left hamstring,” Martinez told reporters on his pregame Zoom call before the first of two with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park last night. “He felt it on the last pitch Sunday. So he’s got a strain. He went on the IL, we get Max [Scherzer] back, but hopefully we get [Finnegan] back fairly soon. He’s going to take a few days off, he’s getting treatment, and then he’ll get right back in and get going again and see where we’re at.”

Finnegan has played a big role from the start, and he’s stepped up with Daniel Hudson (on the IL with right elbow inflammation and therefore) unavailable, so who is Martinez looking to as someone who can step up and take on Finnegan’s role in the 6th/7th inning spots?

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

“We got a few options that we can use,” the manager said.

“Obviously we got [Sam] Clay who can step in.[Austin] Voth, Voth to me is a guy who’s been throwing the ball well. He could step into that role as well.

“We also got [Wander] Suero. It’s kind of going to be we’ll see where we’re at the lineup, you know, we still have [Tanner] Rainey, we still have [Brad] Hand for high-leverage guys as well, so we’ll see where we’re at in our lineup and then we’ll go from there.”

Martinez said he might match up more with a few of his back-end arms unavailable for now, but he thinks Finnegan will be back relatively soon.

“He did feel it his last pitch,” Martinez said. “He walked off the field, but it really cramped — he said he felt more of a cramp than anything, and it grabbed him right when he got to the steps.

“We probably would have had to go get him if I would have seen something awkward, and just pull him out right then and there, we didn’t want it to get this any worse.

“But I’m glad — not that I’m glad he’s hurt, but I’m glad that it wasn’t a significant injury. I know we’re going to miss him but hopefully it won’t take him long to come back.”

Ringing the Bell:

Kyle Schwarber’s 9-home run homestand got a lot of attention, but over the last few weeks the Nationals’ other middle-of-the-order addition this winter has been swinging a hot bat as well. Josh Bell went 6 for 23 (.261/.346/.478) with two doubles and a home run in the eight games he played and 26 PAs he got on the homestand, walking three times, striking out in five plate appearances, and continuing to climb his way back after a rough start to his 2021 campaign.

In his last 30 games, going back to May 17th, the 28-year-old slugging first baseman has put up a .290/.353/.516 line with six doubles and five home runs in 102 PAs, after he started the season with a .156/.219/.333 line over his first 26 games and 105 PAs. What has his manager seen from Bell since he’s turned things around?

“Two things,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing that we noticed, and that we talked to him about, is being aggressive, getting a pitch that he thinks he can hit hard, and go ahead and let it go. And he’s done that a lot.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

“He’s getting a lot more swings off an AB than he has in the past. Before he was taking a lot of pitches. With that being said, the reason why he’s able to do that is because he’s getting back a little earlier and getting on time more.

“So he’s able to unload on swings, where in the past he was late, so he couldn’t catch up to balls. So, both those things contribute to why he’s starting to swing the bat better.

“We want him to be aggressive. When he hits the ball, he hits the ball hard, I mean, the other day he hit a ball up the middle at I think 110-111 MPH, so when he puts the ball in play, he hits the ball hard. So we want him to swing the bat as much as he can, but like I said, and if he gets a pitch he thinks he can hit just let it go.”

Is it a coincidence that both Schwarber and Bell had the start of their season delayed by a trip to the COVID-IL, and then both struggled out of the gate before turning it around? Is it just a timing thing, that took them a while to find it again after leaving Spring Training then having to sit around in quarantine until they were cleared to return?

“Yeah, one is their timing and two is that — especially for Bell, you’re talking about a really big player, you know, and for me it’s just about getting his legs back underneath him. He just — it took him a while and once he did that, now all of a sudden he’s got a lot of moving parts in his swing and the timing was a big thing for him, so we had to try to hone in on his timing, kind of get him to slow down and get ready earlier, see the ball a little more out front, and I think once he got that, as you can see, he started swinging the bat better and I think there’s still a lot more in there, and you’re going to see a lot more, but I’m happy that he’s really started swinging the bat well, and he’s driving in some big runs for us as well.”

Max Looks Thrilled:

Max Scherzer left his June 11th start with a groin issue, and landed on the 10-Day IL a few days later, but he missed just one start while out, and was reinstated in time to go last night in the series opener in Citizens Bank Park, and his manager said before the game it would be limitation-free for the 36-year-old right-hander.

“We have no limitations on him, so he’s going to go out there and pitch and see how far he can take us,” Martinez said.

“He threw a really good bullpen his last outing, felt good, so we’ll see how it goes. The weather hasn’t been great so far today, but hopefully it clears up and we get a game in today.”

It did clear up, but Scherzer (and the rest of the pitchers in the game) were going to have to deal with MLB’s new protocols, which include frequent checks for foreign substances while they’re on the mound.

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Did Martinez talk to any of his friends or fellow managers around the league to see how it went on the first day of the new protocols on Monday?

“I watched a lot of the games yesterday and today there were some games, yeah, I haven’t talked to anybody, I’ve seen some things and how they’re checking.

“I just know that our players, our pitchers, they’re all prepared, they’ve all been talked to, and my biggest thing is, hey, the umpires are going to do their job, that’s why they’re here, just bear with it and let’s get through it without any big ordeal. They’re doing their due diligence like they’re supposed to so, we’re going to go out there and I just told them to focus on playing the game. That’s all we need to worry about and do what you do best, and that’s to get outs.”

How did it go with Scherzer? You can read all about it HERE. Or take the Twitter route below: